In the early chapters of the book of Revelation, the apostle John received some words from Jesus about the spiritual condition of seven churches that were scattered throughout Asia Minor. A few of the churches were highly commended (Good job churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia!). Most of the churches received a mixture of both commendation and correction. And, of course, the church located in Laodicea only got complaints from Jesus.
I sometimes wonder what Jesus might say about church life in 2021. Would he give us a high five? Or would he be forced to point out some problems that needed some attention?
One thing that seems obvious to me is that many of us approach church more like a consumer rather than a communer. In other words, we come to church seeking what church can do for us, rather than finding out how we can help make the church become more fruitful and faithful. Rather than give, we’re more interested in taking.
One way this shows up is how some people think about the hired staff. For some, the pastors and ministry team leaders are hired to do the all the work of ministry. For this kind of church attender, the bulk of their responsibility is limited to (1) showing up for worship services and church events, and (2) giving to the offering.
But this is not a scriptural perspective. Not in the least! Check out what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in regard the primary role ministry leaders are to play within the life of the church:
And he himself (Jesus) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB)
It seems that in our modern day we have broken down the church into two groups: the professionals and everyone else. The implication is that the professionals do all the work while they rest of the church shows up and gives money. But from God’s perspective, every believer has a role and function within the church. This is the point Paul sought to make in 1 Corinthians 12,
They key task of ministry leaders is not to do all the work of the ministry, but to equip all the members of the church to carry out the ministry! In too many of our churches, the majority of Christians are too busy watching the action rather than participating in actual service. The church was never intended to be a spectator sport where great numbers of believers warm the bench. But sadly, a lot of Christians are doing just that. Which doesn’t make for much health, for the individual or the church body.
It’s been said that the modern church could be compared to a pro football game. On any given Sunday, the stands are filled with 80,000 people desperately in need of exercise. And on the field are 22 players desperately in need of rest. What an imbalance!
May the people of God resist the urge to have our ministry leaders entertain us. Instead, may God’s people insist on being equipped.
Equipped to teach.
Equipped to counsel.
Equipped to serve.
Equipped to love.
The bottom line is this: the more equipped Christians are serving within the church, the healthier that church will be.
Let’s say no to spectator Christianity once and for all.