Service and servants, ministry and ministers

I’ve been involved in church leadership to some degree for most of my adult life. So any criticisms I might have toward the church grow out of self-analysis and awareness of my own failures. This is especially true with this post.

One problem I see in the church has to do with helping our members find their place to serve within the body. I was reminded of this when reading what one sister wrote:

I used to lament over not loving to bake casseroles and decorate for baby showers. If I could do those things I would have been more useful in most church settings I have experienced.

This isn’t meant to be a post about gender roles, even though that’s what this sister was writing about. Feel free to discuss that in the comments, but it’s not what I’m getting at.

Her words made me recognize what a poor job we’ve done in helping people see that most of what the church does happens outside of our assembly time. It’s not just women who are frustrated. I think one reason that so many men drop out of church is that they think if they aren’t gifted to serve in a public way, they aren’t useful in the body. For many of them, even baking and hosting aren’t options. If they aren’t talented speakers or skilled song leaders, they feel that they have little or nothing to offer the church.

Much of this boils down to what I call our “edifice complex,” the obsession we have with our Sunday morning assembly. We miss the fact that we are defined by what we do outside of the church building, not inside it. Worshiping God together is crucial; I’m not asking us to take away the importance of our Sunday gatherings. Instead, I’m asking us to sanctify the rest of the week, to see that our acts of ministry outside of the Sunday assembly are as important as what we do when we’re together.

Men and women must learn to value their gifts as administrators. We need them to rejoice at their ability to recognize physical needs and meet them. When we limit ministry to preaching and leading worship, we exclude large percentages of the body, even if we allow women to participate more fully than in the past.

Until we achieve a healthy view of ministry which includes all Christians, we will always have large numbers of men and women who feel frustrated and disengaged. As long as we fail to value the wide variety of gifts within the body, we will struggle to connect with many church members.

Let’s equip the saints for works of service. Let’s spur one another on to love and good works. Let’s learn to serve and minister according to the multifaceted grace of God.

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