There are benefits to being part of a small church, like seeing familiar faces week-to-week and building close relationships, but there’s really one main weakness that a small church like mine has: limited resources. In other words, we simply don’t have the luxury of having a paid custodial, grounds, sound/tech, and maintenance staff. What does that imply? Churches, small ones especially, are sustained by the faithful volunteer service of its members and attendees.
So, how do church leaders cultivate a heart of service toward the Body of Christ while trying to exercise grace, understanding, and patience? Before leaders can exhort you to serve, you need to understand why you should serve. Consider four reasons why every Christian should be involved in some kind of service:
1. You have at least one spiritual gift given to you to employ within the context of your local church (1 Pet 4:10) for the purpose of edification (Eph 4:11-13).
A list of possible gifts is identified in Romans 12:3-8. They are prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy. Notice these gifts can be divided into two main categories: 1) public service (“prophesying” or preaching, teaching, and leading) and 2) practical ministry (serving, giving, mercy). If you have no desire to study hard and deliver accurate Bible lessons for people’s edification/sanctification or to serve as an elder, then you most likely have a practical ministry gift.
Most pastors are always looking for men who would like to train for eldership, but the reality is that there are always a plethora of practical needs to be met in every church, no matter the size. Because of the qualifications (1 Tim 3:2-7), giftedness (i.e., “able to teach”), and effort (2 Tim 2:15) it takes to be devoted to a public teaching/preaching ministry, most Christians feel more comfortable serving in some kind of practical ministry. So, ask yourself, “What talents, abilities, and desires has God given me to edify the people of God and how can I put them to good use?”
2. You are responsible before the Lord to obey all the “one another” commands in Scripture and you can’t do that outside your local church.
3. By serving your local church, you store up for yourself “treasures in Heaven.”
Jesus made a profound statement in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The main point in this text is to warn people of the folly of working to accumulate worldly and temporary possessions (“treasures on earth”) rather than dedicating one’s time and resources for the benefit and furtherance of God’s Kingdom. Jesus got to the heart of the matter. What we seek to amass in this life is a clear indication of where our heart is. In our culture, it’s too easy to be preoccupied with savings accounts, career goals, vacations, retirement, comfort, rest, and recreation, among other things.
Those things in moderation are not wrong, per se, but if you think more about those things than serving God through the local church or if you find yourself living for next year’s (or month’s) vacation, then it’s possible that your heart may be in the wrong place.
As a pastor, I especially have to do some self-examination on a daily basis so that I don’t become centered on the things of this world and thereby disqualify myself from the ministry (1 Cor 9:27).
4. You need to think of your local church as a priority in life.
Galatians 6:10 reads, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Considering the historical context of Galatians, written to a group of local churches (Gal 1:2), Paul does not intend believers to be primarily committed to other Christian groups like parachurch organizations, Christian schools/colleges, and/or other churches as a priority.
Too many Christians think they’re doing good by serving God in a Christian organization while being totally detached from their local church. This was never God’s will.
You need the local church in order to be a faithful and obedient disciple of Christ! Apart from the local church, how can you do the “one anothers” (see the 2nd reason above), obey your leaders (Heb 13:17), practice church discipline (Matt 18), and partake of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 11:23-32)? Divorced from a biblical local church, who will protect you (Tit 1:9-11), feed you, and shepherd you (1 Pet 5:2)? The “household of faith” is your church family. Your local church.
Parachurch ministries and our network of like-minded churches can be a part of our lives, but not at the expense of your local assembly. Galatians 6:10 indicates that God’s children need to do their best to make their spiritual family a priority.
In order to serve for the glory of God, Christians need to know the reason why service to the Body is not merely a duty, like a household chore, but a joy and privilege. If we serve with the wrong motive (e.g., for human recognition), it does not please God. Everything we do, if not done out of love for Christ, is sin (Col 3:23-24; 1 Cor 10:31). Therefore, knowing why we serve is absolutely essential. Can you think of any other reasons why you should serve?