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When I was pregnant with my second child, one of the ultrasounds came back a little less than perfect. The doctor assured us that most of the time these things were no big deal and we just had to come back in more often for additional ultrasounds and appointments. Needless to say, we didn't appreciate hearing that there was potentially something wrong with our baby. One of the elders at our church met with us every time we had an appointment or an ultrasound (which became more and more frequent as we got closer to the delivery date). He prayed over us and on our behalf with words of peace and comfort. He was genuinely concerned for us and every time we met I was completely overwhelmed by the love and support in that room.
When one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), our church rallied around her. She stood (and eventually sat in her wheelchair) before the church or wrote on her blog time after time encouraging us to not wait until it was too late to share the love of Christ with others. She was able to see that her illness and her story was a way to connect with others in our community. It was always interesting that the horrible disease that distorted her voice and disfigured her body was the initial reason people listened to what she had to say. Her disease that brought her face to face with death gave her a platform. She fought until the very end and I'll never forget the packed church auditorium on the day of her celebration service. Each and every face in that room had been deeply touched by her life.
There is a sweet lady who taught a Sunday School class at our previous church. She volunteered every week and poured her heart, soul, and talents into molding the hearts and minds of the four-year-olds in her room. She never took a lesson for granted with them and the boys and girls walked out of her room each week with a bigger and better understanding of Jesus and His love for each of them. My daughter still talks about the soup her teacher made for them one Sunday, and neither of my children were ready to graduate out of her class when they aged out.
Our current church currently meets in a rented location each Sunday morning. Teams of men and women set up and tear down the sound equipment, coffee and refreshment area, and classrooms each week before and after the services. Others stand in the lobby and greet people and pass out important information and Bibles during the services. These people believe in the mission of the church and they may not want to teach a class or preach the sermon, but they are vital to the church.
Your churches need members who are willing to step up and love on the people in their church and the community. The congregation is comprised of broken people who desperately need to experience Grace--or there wouldn't be a need for Jesus. There is not one church that has all of the answers or the "formula" for bringing the Word to the people. If it was that easy, then every church would be exploding at the seams.
There is not one soul that is free from the burden of sin in your church building, and that includes the minister who stands before you each week. Your staff need people to love and care for their spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional well-being as well. Sometimes these people are found within the church, sometimes they are peers, and sometimes your staff members need the ability to attend conferences and retreats. They cannot be available to effectively minister to others if they are at a deficit.
We went to see Les Miserables a few months ago when it was in the theaters. I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone who has yet to see it (please, please, please, go rent it), but one of the most incredible scenes from the musical is near the end when one of the lead characters, Jean Valjean, is singing the Finale with the rest of the cast. He has discovered that his efforts to care for his adopted daughter were not in vain. This particular song includes the line,
"To love another person is to see the face of God."
The only other time in my life that I have sat in a movie theater when it ended from sheer emotional exhaustion was after The Passion of the Christ. When Les Miserables was over, people were sitting in the theater sobbing and trying to regain their composure. Chris said that afterwards there were MEN of all ages and backgrounds in the restroom speaking about the impact of the movie (which, apparently, breaks all sorts of rules of conduct at the urinals).
The people in your community need and deserve a church that loves each other and their community in an awe-inspiring, indescribable, and authentic way. Sometimes we all (ministry staff included) need to get over ourselves and look past our personal agendas to see the greater needs of the people. We cannot be a church so wrapped up within ourselves that we completely miss the opportunities to love staring us straight in the face.
Dear Church, we must be the hands and feet of Jesus. We all need to find ways to serve our congregations. We absolutely cannot depend on the ministry staff to carry the load on their own. Your ministry staff are ordinary people who have been called to share the extraordinary love of Christ with the world. Society and our churches place a lot of responsibility on our ministers--after all, they are the ones with degrees and experience in teaching the Bible. But, beneath all the titles, they are just regular people--just like the people they serve in their congregations. Your ministers love their church members, but they are not able to die on a cross for their sins. These staff members do not have the power to save the world--Christ took care of that for us over 2000 years ago.
Jesus made it very clear that we are to love Him, love one another, and to share this love with others. He wasn't just speaking to the ministry staff or those with Bible college degrees--he was speaking to all of us. It is not always easy to love on people the way they need to be loved on. Broken people often come with baggage and issues and frustration. Sometimes it's downright exhausting for your ministry staff to love those who have no idea how to receive love and mercy.
But Christ's words weren't just a suggestion, they were a command.
To be continued. . .