The missing link

I am a church member.

I like the metaphor of membership. It’s not membership as in a civic organization or a country club. It’s the kind of membership given to us in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now you are the body of Christ and individual members of it” (I Corinthians 12:27). Because I am a member of the body of Christ, I must be a functioning member, whether I am an “eye,” an “ear,” or a “hand.” As a functioning member, I will give. I will serve. I will minister. I will evangelize. I will study. I will seek to be a blessing to others. I will remember that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).  (read the entire blog post here)

Wouldn’t it be great if every single church member shared this perspective on membership? There would be no need for stewardship campaigns; there would be plenty of resources for ministry! Ministry would no longer belong only to the “paid holy people.” Instead of bemoaning the lack of volunteer ministers, church leaders would be scrambling to accommodate all those willing servants! There would be baptisms every Sunday as new believers professed their faith in Christ. Small groups would be regularly digging into the word of God–not just storehousing knowledge, but actually living it out as they went about their days blessing others.

Yeah, wouldn’t that be great! A perfectly unified church… But how?

Here’s a hint:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV)

Quoting Eric Geiger, Thom Rainer writes:

For the sake of brevity, let’s deal only with the role of pastors/teachers. Note these truths from the text:

  • Christ (He) personally gave this role. It was important to Him, so it has to be important to us.
  • The role of pastors is not so much to do ministry, as it is to train or equip others to do ministry.
  • If pastors fulfill this role, the body of Christ is built up.
  • As the body of Christ is built up, the believers become unified in the faith.

The passage is clear. As pastors are more involved in training others to do ministry, there will be greater unity in the church. (read the entire blog post here)

Rainer goes on to say that they uncovered an interesting–and unsettling–statistic through their research:

Almost all pastors we surveyed affirmed their critical role in training others to do ministry. But almost three fourths of these pastors had no plans to do so. For most pastors, the reasons behind this gap were simple: they either didn’t know how to take the next steps, or they didn’t feel like they had the time to do so.

Are we, as pastors/teachers, the missing link? Have we developed a plan for equipping our people, raising them up to be fully devoted followers of Christ? Are executing that plan? Do you need to develop one, write down what you are going to do and how you are going to do it…step by step? I’m not sure there’s anything more deserving of our time than equipping our people for ministry.

Perhaps the first step–one we may have overlooked–is teaching our people what it means to be a church member.

How far will you go?

How far are you willing to go to get the attention of your congregation?

A pastor attending one of my workshops recently shared just how far he was willing to go–or perhaps, just how far he was driven! After the nursery attendant quit, the parents were encouraged to volunteer to staff the nursery on Sunday mornings. Most of the parents didn’t want to do it, so they complained and regularly coerced the pastor’s wife into nursery duty. The pastor encouraged folks to listen to see if God was perhaps calling them to serve in the nursery. Having no response, the pastor stepped up to the pulpit on a Sunday morning and said, “You folks can sing songs and worship God this morning. If one of you wants to get up here and preach, you are welcome to do so. I am going to the nursery and care for the youngest members of our congregation.” And that’s exactly where he remained for the entire worship service! What a message he sent to his congregation that day. When one part of the body doesn’t work according to how it was designed, the entire body is affected.

Another pastor I know believed that his volunteer ministers needed to be trained. He worked with his staff to design a fun and effective all-church training event. Four weeks prior to the scheduled training, he took a deep breath and announced it to the congregation, saying, “If you want to continue serving in your ministry role, you must attend this training. If you can’t come, it is your responsibility to meet with your team leader and be trained. Please understand: if you do not attend the training and neglect to follow up with your team leader, you will not be included in the next volunteer ministry schedule.” He repeated the announcement every Sunday leading up to the event. What a message he sent to his congregation that day. We value your time and willingness to serve so much that we are going to be certain that you have the information and training you need for the ministry we are asking you to do.

A staff member from a church shared with me that her pastor has been encouraging each member of his congregation to serve. He recently exhorted them to “exchange your bib for an apron.” What a message he sent to his congregation that day. You have been equipped; now it’s time for you to go out and serve.

Brave men, these pastors. In each case, they risked confrontation, and I’m sure there was some grumbling and grousing as a result of their actions. But the churches didn’t collapse and the pastors weren’t evicted from their pulpits! Each pastor stood firm in the strength of his conviction and challenged the congregation to actually be the body of Christ, according to God’s design.

So… how far will you go?