The church today has become a gathering of consumers.
Instead of following the instructions Paul gave the early church, we show up and expect
- The band to play our favorite songs the way we like them
- The pastor to preach a sermon that inspires us
- The people to greet us and make us fee welcome
- The coffee bar to make our coffee the way we like it
Sadly, for many, the church isn’t a place to give of ourselves, its a place to get for ourselves.
We’ve been told that the church is our filling station – but I disagree, and here’s why.
My church isn’t my filling station, because I’m already filled up when I show up on Sunday mornings.
I’ve been “filling up” Monday through Sunday morning in my own private devotions. I live “filled up”. Each morning I get up, open my Bible and spend time with the Lord.
Even on Sunday mornings.
This way, when I get to church, I’m not walking in the door with expectations.
When I walk in the door Sunday morning, I’m filled up and ready to give to my brothers and sisters; to the school-aged group I teach on a regular basis; to raise my hands in worship no matter what songs we sing or how good they sound because its all about Jesus and His name being glorified.
Church isn’t a place where I receive, it’s a place to give; it’s a place to encourage others; it’s a place where we serve so that unbelievers and new Christians find a community of believers where they feel loved, encouraged, and strengthened!
Once we’ve matured in Christ, we are no longer dependent upon someone to feed us.
We should be independently feeding ourselves so that we can be an encouragement and support to those who are in need and to those who are still learning how to feed themselves.
This is why for the past two weeks I’ve been offering a Love Your Church challenge that correlates with my online Bible Study 14 Days of Agape.
Here is this week’s challenge
7 Acts of Love Every Christian Should Demonstrate All Year Long
1. Write their pastor a letter of encouragement and love
Do you know that it has been proven that pastors have one of the most stressful careers?
Pastor’s often face some of the harshest critics. Because of the nature of their job, congregants often expect more of their pastors than what their pastor can humanly be or give.
What many forget is that pastors struggle with the same struggles we all do: they often feel insecure and inadequate, they fight with their wives, their kids go through rebellious years, they feel discouraged and frustrated when things do go as planned.
Couple that with the fact that many small congregations expect the pastor and his family to do everything from leading worship to fixing the plumbing and doing the janitorial work.
This can often result in tremendous exhaustion and even feelings of isolation, when they feel they have no one to turn to or rely upon.
Pastoral work can be stressful, exhausting and very, very lonely. Many pastors and their families report chronic depression, loneliness, feelings of isolation, and even at times suicide.
The activity in this challenge is to write your pastor a letter of encouragement.
It doesn’t have to be a handwritten letter. Even a text or email will do – but offer him and his family some written love and encouragement. I guarantee you, it will be treasured forever!
2. In a practical way, help someone who is in need.
Some of the least helpful words we say to people are “Call me if you need anything”.
We both know that they wont call, but we feel better having offered at least something…..even though that “something” was really nothing.
When a pregnant mom of a toddler is nearing her delivery date; when an elderly person has had hip replacement surgery, when a single parent of 4 has come down with a nasty virus, the best words we can say are:
“Can I come over on Wednesday and:
- Cook dinner
- Watch the kids while you nap
- Clean your house
- Take your kids for the week
- Get your groceries
- Spend some time with you
If you want to reach out, do so in a practical and concrete way. Name a date and a specific way you’d like to meet that need.
3. Do a kind deed for a family in the church.
Do you have a family in your church that’s in need?
Maybe their kids need new school clothes.
Maybe the parents just need a night out together.
Perhaps they don’t really need anything, but you’d like to bless them with a family night of pizza and bowling.
Whatever it is, reach out and go a kind deed to show them that they matter to you!
4. Volunteer in a homeless shelter or warming center
It is very easy for us to grow cynical about the homeless.
So often we look at the homeless as people who failed in life, those who choose to be homeless to avoid paying bills and taxes, or addicts who have messed up their lives….they made their bed, now they’re lying in it.
While it’s true that the homeless community is made up of these, as well as people who have experienced some hard blows in life: maybe they lost their job and couldn’t find other employment – or did, but the pay cut they had to take resulted in foreclosure and they haven’t been able to find another place to live.
Maybe it’s a woman who had to flee her abusive husband and didn’t have anywhere to turn.
Any number of scenarios can result in homelessness, and all of them are worthy of our love and care. Even the person who has messed their life up with drugs and alcohol. Even the person who has completely failed in life. Even the person who chooses to be homeless.
All of these need us to be Jesus’ hands to them.
Many homeless people die in the winter due to exposure, and I love it that many churches have begun to rise up and offer “warming centers” for these people as safe places for them to stay.
A practical way to show the love of Jesus is to volunteer at a shelter or warming center. I promise you, your presence there will be a huge blessing, and perhaps you’ll even have an opportunity to lead someone to Jesus!
5. Invite a family over for dinner
When is the last time you had a family over to dinner?
I don’t mean that you met at a restaurant or coffee shop, I mean opened your home to them and invited them to sit at your table.
This is such a meaningful way of reaching out to people; especially new people in your church, making them feel welcome.
I challenge you to reach out to a family in your church: kids or no kids – and invite them to share a meal with you at your table.
6. Reach out to someone in your church with whom you don’t usually fellowship
If there is one thing I hear from my readers a lot it is requests to write about what to do when your church is filled with cliques.
It is something I plan to write about in the future because it is a common problem in churches everywhere.
It is natural that we gravitate to those people with whom we have a lot in common, people who have similar or complimentary personalities…
And often to the avoidance of those with whom we have nothing in common or who have personalities that rub us wrong.
My challenge to you is to reach out to someone in your church with whom you don’t usually fellowship. Invite them over for dinner. Go out to coffee with them. Spend time getting to know them.
I think that many times we are quick to make judgments about people, and miss out on a beautiful friendship because we assumed that we wouldn’t get along with that person.
7. Adopt someone in a local nursing home and arrange to visit them weekly or biweekly.
Sadly, our elderly are often our forgotten people.
Children grow up and move away — physically and emotionally. Or maybe they never had any children, and no living relatives to care for them.
They grow old and frail, and when they are unable to care for themselves any longer go to live in a retirement village or nursing home.
No one sees them.
No one visits.
They die lonely and forgotten.
It is a common story – but it shouldn’t be. As Christians we are called to honor our elders, to visit and care for the widows: James says that this is true and undefiled religion.
I challenge you to make it a regular practice to visit the elderly – physically or even befriend them online.
I am often surprised at how many elderly shut-ins are on Facebook and enjoy chatting online as much as they do in person.
In fact, for many it is easier for them to chat online, because when they grow fatigued it is much easier for them to let you know that they need to go rest for now, but will be back later.
These 7 acts of love are all ways that God’s people can reach out, expecting nothing in return, and show the love of Jesus to their church….and even to the world around them.
We should be known by our love and selfless acts of service, as we reach out to others as service unto the Lord!