How to be a Low-Maintenance Church Member
In every church in which I’ve been a member, it has been a goal of mine to be a low-maintenance church member. I want my pastor to not have to worry about me, whether I will need some exhortation or constant building up lest I fall off the deep end into sin or apathy. I want my pastor and his wife to see growth and fruit because of Christ’s work in me. Though it is a benefit and joy to me when I am edified by the preaching of God’s Word or other encouragement from my brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to be steadfast and immoveable in my faith, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58) even when there is no one around to build me up or encourage me.
I often think of Hebrews 13:17 because many in my family and extended family work in full-time ministries and are active and faithful members of their churches. It has been a privilege to be in a family of Pastors and Missionaries who value God’s Word and His local church above all other earthly values, and who have dedicated their lives to the furtherance of both. In every ministry there are joys and sorrows, many victories and many defeats. I have watched my family and friends and co-laborers weep together over sin that had caused division and destruction. But I’ve also seen them rejoice together over the growth of a member in their church, a victory over sin, and especially over a sinner who has newly come to faith in Christ.
We know that God is sovereignly in control of each situation and that He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), and yet God allows each person the individual soul liberty to choose how he might live. Each of us has the ability to heed or to neglect Hebrews 13. Your choices and your behaviors WILL affect whether your pastor (and his wife) will have joy in ministering to you or will need to minister to you with grief. The whole chapter of Hebrews 13 gives us some ways in which we can be low-maintenance members in our local churches.
The beginning of that chapter, in Hebrews 13:1-2, reminds us to be thinking about others and not ourselves. A pastor rejoices when his flock is active in the church, are seeking ways to serve within the local church, and also seeks ways to minister outside the body in the world. Don’t be a Sunday-Morning-Only Christian. We used to call some members “pew-warmers” in reference to the idea of bench-warming. A member in the church is doing nothing for Christ if he only wants to know what the church can do for him. We should not be asking what kinds of programs can my church offer me or my kids, but rather we should be giving of ourselves and our time to further the ministry in our church.
There are thousands of ways to serve, especially if we don’t limit our scope of service. It is good to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zones and then watch how God can use us as we are yielded to Him. Offer to help or teach in the Sunday School or Junior Church. Wednesday night programs for kids always need helpers and teachers. Sing in the choir. Wipe tables and set up chairs for fellowships. Participate in Visitation and Outreach opportunities. Open your home for a Sunday School class to have a barbecue. Pull weeds and mow the grass. Sign up for the cleaning crew. Volunteer in the nursery. Offer to play the piano or organ if you can. Let the music director know if you play an instrument and offer to use that talent. Help out with VBS. Offer to keep the church kitchen stocked. Be a greeter. Fold the bulletins each week. Help a needy family in the church. Say hello and start a conversation with any visitors in church. The list is endless!
My husband and I have the privilege of helping out a church plant right now, and in small churches like ours, every member is needed to serve sometimes in multiple areas. A big hole is left when someone drops the ball or backs out of a ministry. If every member in your church would serve in every area they are able, the pastor would be more free to labor in Word and in Doctrine (Acts 6:2-4).
More important than serving in your local church is purity. What if a member is actively serving in some area, but yet at home she watches movies that have questionable content? What if a member is harboring a secret sin or habit, but on Sunday puts on the Christian facade? This is a concern for any pastor, and be sure that “your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). A pastor or his wife cannot trust in a member who may be faithful in teaching a class or faithfully sing in the choir, but may show up in an immodest dress at various times. A pastor cannot allow someone to teach a class who may insert false doctrine into the lesson, even though that member may be excited to teach and faithful in doing so. Regarding service areas, a pastor would rather know that his member is going to err on the side of holiness rather than push for her liberty in Christ (Galatians 5:13). A member who is pure in actions, dress, thoughts, and doctrine will be a joy to his or her pastor.
Though service and purity are essential for a growing Christian, faithfulness is also a highly important virtue for any church member. The pastor also cannot trust someone who is not loyal to the local church; loyal above any extra-curricular activites, and above any other earthly endeavors. Membership in a church is a biblical and serious commitment, and ought not to be taken lightly. Be sure to join a church that is biblical in doctrine, and then be faithful in attendance and in service. When we take this seriously then we ought to submit ourselves under the God-ordained authority of the pastor and the leaders of the church and follow their example. Hebrews 13:17 specifically tells us that is a way to help our pastors minister to us with joy, and the benefit is for our spiritual health ultimately. When members do not bother to attend regularly to learn from the sermons or classes, they inevitably will fall prey to false doctrines. A member who is not growing in the knowledge and truth of God and is not faithfully learning the Word, is a concern for the pastor. A member who constantly is bucking against the decisions of the pastor and leadership of the church and who sows seeds of discord against the pastor, is causing the pastor to minister with grief. A member who places priority of sports, music recitals, civic duties, or “family time” above church attendance is not faithful to God’s command in Hebrews 10:25. However, a member who is always in church whenever the doors are open and who is eagerly taking notes or nodding his head during the sermon or lesson is a joy to the pastor. This is the one who is joyfully and thoughtfully singing the hymns, who is sharing with the pastor what he learned in his devotions that week, who is not susceptible to every wind of doctrine. This is the member who humbly follows the leadership of the pastor.
A pastor also cannot fully trust a person who is not reliable to follow through in his area of service. When you do offer to serve in some way, then do it! “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ ‘No'” (Matthew 5:37). Let’s say a church has two ladies who can play the piano, one who is highly skilled but yet does not always show up to rehearsals, but there is one who is mediocre in skill but will always be in church every Sunday. Who will be chosen to play for the church? The faithful one of course! How about the one who is nervous when teaching, maybe even boring, but yet will be there teaching those junior boys every single Sunday without fail? That’s the one I want teaching my son! Someone who is consistent in service and in purity and growth is a joy to his pastor.
Rabbit Trail >>> I think we Americans put too high a value on “passion” or being “excited” about the things of God. We ought to show gratitude and respect for those who are willing to serve and are faithful in their service. We should not complain about their short-comings. We ought to teach our children as well, that faithfulness and devotion are higher virtues than mere skill and passion. For those of you who really are highly skilled in speaking or in music or in creativity…be faithful! Elevate your usefulness in the church above the level of “talent” to the level of “devotion.”
So let our pastors and their wives minister to us with joy and not with grief. Let us be serving with purity and faithfulness in our local churches. Let us be low-maintenance church members whose pastor and wife can safely trust in us as members.