A sad and significant amount of consumerism exists in the church of Jesus Christ today. Similar to our behavior in a local mall, we move from church to church, shopping for just the right combination of what we want.
In a typical congregation, the paid staff carry the burden of the church’s spiritual health while the members happily play their role as the recipients. Many pastors have accepted this situation and seem content if their attendance is increasing, and if their budget has enough financial sustainability to fuel the program.
Meanwhile, Colossians 3:12–17 paints a radically different portrait of how we should interact in the local church. Take the time to read over this full passage, slowly and intentionally:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (ESV)
Don’t be content to sit as a consumer in your local church. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can change your mentality and experience rejuvenated participation that seeks first the Kingdom of God.
Here are five steps to take:
1) Be intentional in your relationship (vv. 12-14). Don’t slip in and out of the weekly service unnoticed. Look for ways to intentionally contribute to an organic body of faith where each member feels the pain when another member hurts. How? With compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness.
2) Be vulnerable with others (v. 15). Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. Because you rest in his forgiveness, you don’t need to fear being exposed, since nothing could be known about you that hasn’t already been covered by his sacrificial work. The peace of Christ frees you from riding the roller coaster of people’s responses to you and leaving or shutting down out of frustration, hurt, or retaliation.
3) Be a committed student of God’s Word (v. 16). If you are intentional and vulnerable in your relationships, your conversations will quickly go beyond superficial facts. To share life-changing wisdom in these moments, you’ll need to have the word of Christ dwelling in you richly. Are you taking the time to understand how the Word practically applies to everyday life?
4) Look for ministry opportunities (v. 16). Teach and admonish are words that we typically assign to formally trained, full-time paid ministry staff. Not so in this passage! God has designed for all his children to be involved in his redemptive work all the time. No one is given grace just to be a recipient but to be an instrument of that very same grace in the lives of others.
5) Recognize that your life no longer belongs to you (v. 17). Perhaps this should be the first step; everything else flows out of this posture. God owns us, our time, our money, our schedule, and every one of our relationships. An active ministry lifestyle begins with surrendering to the ownership of the Lord over all we are and all we have (see 2 Corinthians 5:15, 1 Corinthians 10:31).
Imagine what could be possible within a local church if it was populated with people who were no longer shopping, but were intentional and vulnerable, students of the Word, seeking opportunities to minister, and submitting to the Lordship of Christ!
Start with yourself. Confess that this mentality won’t come naturally. Seek the help of the Holy Spirit. And as you do, remember that your Lord will never turn a deaf ear to the cries of his children.
1. Do you slip in and out of church most weeks? Who can you identify in your church that is hurting and needs to be loved? How can you reach out to them this week, even if you are social distancing?
2. Have you been hurt in church before? How so? What influence does that hold over your attitude to this day?
3. What are the benefits of being vulnerable, both for yourself and for other people? Be specific.
4. What are some current opportunities that you have to share the wisdom of God’s Word with others? How can you educate yourself so that you can apply the transforming power of Jesus Christ to their situation and relationships?
5. What are some potential idols that interfere with you being selfless and active in your local church? Are you seeking the help of the Holy Spirit to confess those sins? How can you surrender these aspects of your life to Christ?