Rightly Understanding What It Means to Work For the Church
For this week’s prayer and worship help we’ll be looking into a question that was posed to me after morning service a couple of weeks ago. It was asked that I explain more about what it means to “puff oneself up”. This was in reference to a struggle going on in the mind of someone watching online who loves to serve the Church, but was worried about whether or not their helping out was for the right reasons. I told them that there is definitely a thin line between being of service and being so far out in front that you can be seen “on the street corner”. What it came down to as we talked was not just the intent, but the desire of the heart and where a person sees themselves in the work of the Lord God for His covenant people.
I admit that in some ways it is a subject we can become uncomfortable with while discussing.
It may also seem like an issue where a person can violate the spirit of what our Lord is saying by just volunteering themselves for leadership to begin with. However, rest assured that Christ’s concern in Matthew 6 is not with those seeking ways to assist the body that inevitably puts them in charge. It is the goal of Jesus here to encourage self-reflection. We unfortunately often only have a negative understanding of what it means to do that. There is great importance in thinking about a critical eye as a constructive blessing as we all grow more and more in the likeness of our Savior. As I noted in the sermon Sunday Matthew 18 as well is to be comprehended as a good thing that grows the whole body of Christ together. Misanthropy brings no one forward. Our goal today will be to end in a place which is further along in sanctification than where we began.
There is an old saying in business books which is called the 90/10 principle. That means 90% of the work is often done by 10% of the people. While it may seem a bit harsh, it is certainly something we all can testify to as being a matter we’ve noticed in many areas of life, and if we are being honest we’ve noticed it in the Church as well. The question is, should this be something that bothers us? In other words is there anything necessarily wrong here? Well, to be fair it can be the case that we present statistics and the like with presuppositions that maybe we shouldn’t. In this situation though the problem we need to come to better understand is the nature of what work looks like in Christ’s body. We have a disposition to assume that doing stuff at Church is in reference either to making decisions or physical labor of some kind, whether it be diaconal landscaping or setting up for a luncheon, etc… There’s a lot more that should be going on in the life of a congregation than merely these things. Worship, prayer, visiting the sick, giving are all different ways that the Church “works”. We can have a worldly conception about the subject without realizing it. The dear mature saint who is homebound can do just as much to help out their local fellowship in the mercies of lifting up needs to heaven as the strongest young man who lifts eight chairs at once at the end of a meal. The weapons granted to His people by Jehovah are mightier and must be seen as such. That is part of the reason why Jesus spends so much time in the Sermon on the Mount talking about personal holiness and worship (including financial giving to the saints and prayer), because He believes these to be the most important part of His discipleship program as He raises up His children to support one another in love.
If we lead a thousand programs, do a million things for people, but do not pray for them and with them, seek their spiritual growth in Christ, worship soul-in-soul, honor them with our hearts, and love them in light of the gospel of grace, then according to the Apostle Paul all the stuff we’ve done is worthless. It is but clanging cymbals and out-of-tune trumpets to the ears of God.
It is vital that we recognize the main reason why our Lord has formed this local expression of His Heavenly kingdom, what we call the Church. It is for the betterment of one another, and so that we will complete His mission as His people for His reasons. Much that we consider to be stuff for the Church may or may not actually be necessary. It’s part of the reason why everything we do must be placed under the question, “Is this activity advancing the cause of Jesus Christ?” and/or “Is this activity still providing the mission it once was?”. No one likes to give up things or see prized events disappear, but sometimes that may be the right thing to do for whatever providential reason. How we respond to activities going the way of the dodo can shed light, positively and negatively, on our motivations for helping out. The same could be said if our advice isn’t heeded or if it seems like no one is listening to our ideas. There is no question that there can be great, and real, frustrations to being made to feel like we are being sidelined, ignored, etc… and without a doubt there are times where sin is very much involved in that. People can become very territorial without either realizing it, or worse, knowing it and hanging on to stuff for whatever idolatrous reasons. It’s sad, but anyone at any church formed since Adam knows that these type of things are a possibility where sinners come together.
Going back to Matthew 18 we see here one of the reasons why God in His mercy gave us elders. In the old covenant when there was disagreement the people were to take their concerns to the judges at the gates for adjudication. We are to rely on the insight of these men elected by the congregation to rule well, submit in grace, and entrust to them the wisdom of knowing what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord.
What does all that have to do with Matthew 6 and serving the Church? Well, remember this. Everything we have discussed has to do with being willing to understand that even if we are done wrong by the body in figuring out our place in Christ’s Kingdom, our helping out is seen by the Lord of Glory, which is our reward. We should be, and need to be, satisfied in that.
One more word:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church