By the sweet grace of God, we are in an extremely good place in our church right now, and so I thought it would be the perfect time to share a few tips for how to be a jolly good church member (as no one in our congregation will possibly think I am talking about them as I go about listing all the things one should and shouldn’t do at church).
To research for this post, I am simply drawing from my memory of 30 years of church life, from the many horror stories I have heard from others along the way, and mostly, from my own failings in the past.
Because, let’s face it, all of us have probably been guilty at one time or another (or lots of times or anothers) of behaving poorly and/or sinfully toward our church family. We could, I suppose, sweep our past mistakes under the rug of external perfection…or we could share them, learn from them, be humbled by them, and, by the grace of God, spare others from making the same mistakes we have made. That’s one of our jobs isn’t it? To spur one another on to love and good works?
Consider this, then, my spurring, in the hope that you will be a jolly good member at your church.
Let us begin.
1. Don’t neglect the good manners you employ in the workplace or in the world when you go to church. Would you ever tell your boss his meeting lasted too long? No way, homey. Remember that next time your pastor makes you late to lunch at Sirloin Stockade.
2. Church business meetings can be utterly ridiculous, mostly because angry congregants are too cowardly to discuss their problems face-to-face with their church leaders ahead of time. They wait instead for an open forum to drop bombshells and to make accusations. This is not a nice thing to do. And then some of you may have grown up in this sort of church atmosphere and simply think it is how things are done. Let’s change that (our church did!). If you have a problem or even a loaded question about church finances or polity…go ask about it in a civil and loving manner on a normal day when you don’t have an audience. (Hebrews 13:17).
3. Believe the best about your brothers and sisters. When you start making negative assumptions about what others think or believe, you are opening yourself up for some major sin and could even allow a root of bitterness to spring up in your church (Hebrews 12:15). This is serious, y’all. Don’t even go there. Take your church family at their word, and believe the best about them, always. (to read more on this, see “Uprooting Bitterness“).
4. If you prefer a certain type of music, listen to it in your car or in your home the other 167 hours and 45 minutes of the week. For the 15 minutes of singing that takes place on Sunday morning, put on a smile and sing along, contemplating the words in your heart. Seriously…15 minutes. No need to opine.
5. The church ain’t no place for cliques. You’d better break that circle up, and get to work loving the least loveable in your body as much as you love your BFF’s.
6. Don’t hate. Appreciate. (I have loads more to say on this subject here and would be so happy if you would read it: Less Than Appreciative).
7. If you think you could teach a class better than the teacher you are criticizing or could lead the music better than the current song leader or could preach a sermon better than your pastor, then by all means, do it. I don’t know why, but I feel like this deserves a smiley-face emoticon. 🙂
8. Don’t put the “God told me” stamp on the extra-Biblical idea that is formulating in your brain. Recognize it for what it is – an idea – and don’t throw a hissy-fit if everybody else doesn’t jump on the you-train. It takes humility and submission to be a healthy church member, and the Kingdom benefits immensely from such believers…more than it will ever benefit from the idea or the opinion you had. How do I know that? The Bible came up with the eternal truths of humility, unity, love, dying-to-self….you came up with yours. I hugely regret every instance of my past when I made big to-do’s out of pet causes; however, I never regret holding my tongue, swallowing my pride, and acting from a place of love and godly submission. (Ephesians 5:15-21, John 13:34-35).
9. Recognize your church building for what it is, a building to keep you and your fellow worshipers in relative comfort, to provide a room to tinkle in, and to help shelter you from the outside elements. Start acting like it is the inner room of the temple and pretty soon, I promise, you’ll be acting like a big meanie.
10. Likewise, view your church worship times for what they really are, a communal gathering to hear the Word expounded, to stir each other up, and to thank God corporately. This is not a club. And when we treat it as such, we sully up the body and the gospel, which is just…yuck. Abysmal. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
11. If your church is in turmoil, let me encourage you: Don’t give in and allow your heart to be mislead, regardless of how others are acting. Remember that church unity starts with you. Watch your love and your godly example spread, and be amazed at how the Spirit can work when we set our hearts hard after God. (1 Peter 3:8-9).
12. And perhaps most importantly in our modern church-age, don’t leave your fellowship for greener pastures, unless over hardcore matters of Biblical fidelity. The Word provides every answer for working out our problems, and they never include splitting up and leaving each other in anger. Sometimes the church can look like the biggest joke to the watching world, not because they misunderstand us, but because…they understand us perfectly. I think we’re going to have to answer for that, big-time. Let’s fix it, before the Judgement Day. (Quick! Hurry! Spit-spot!). You don’t believe in marital divorce? Don’t be a church-divorcer either. This is your family. Your body. Treat it as such.
13. Finally, let this be your banner: holiness, unity, love. Fight for these traits in your heart rather than your choice of carpet color at the decorating committee meeting, and your view on church and on the brethren will be transformed. I know, because I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes and in my own wayward and selfish heart.
I’m sure I could go on and on for days, but I think this is a good place to start. Like I said before, the above tips were not always employed by me, but as God has had grace on my heart and sanctified me through solid, biblical teaching, I am learning to treat my church family with great care, and the benefits are endless. The greatest impact we can have on the lost will happen when we are loving each other, through and through. Start today, and watch as God is faithful to His promises.
Also, I want to remind everyone that I sadly don’t have the time or wisdom to parlay in the comments section, and must therefore be very discerning in what comments I allow to go through. I will see all comments, but will only publish those that do not lead to further debate, and that are, of course, edifying to all of my readers. Thank you so much for understanding!
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