Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Laboring through Church

My point in the previous post was not to criticize churches concerning how many services they may or may not have. Rather, I was criticizing the cancelling of services based on the fact that people have other places that they want to be. In other words, it seems to me that people want church services to be cancelled, more often than not, simply to alleviate their obligation to go. Isn't this a signal that something is terribly wrong with our attitude about the local church in general and of our attitude toward the fellowship we have covenanted with? After all, there will be no break from church in heaven. Why will you enjoy it more there than here?

The question is not asked in sarcasm. I ask in all earnestness. Why do you believe that you will enjoy "church" more in heaven than here on earth? The short answer probably revolves around the fact that church in heaven will be worship without bother: all the hypocrites will be purged, the teenagers will all be respectful, the music will be jamming, and all the attire will be modest. Being in fellowship here is hard.

I believe that part of the reason why people experience "church burnout" in the here and now is because we want heaven without suffering and without working to enjoy it. Track with me, and I think you'll discover what I mean.

The spotless bride of Christ will provoke much praise and glory to the Lamb of God, especially from worn out saints who worked with her on earth. Why? Because saints who labor in the Church see how blemished she is. Her members are sinful, selfish creatures who left to their own devices would ultimately devour one another. The fact that she is presented to the Father by Jesus Christ without spot is a miracle, folks.

Imagine for a moment our reward in heaven for being a good and faithful servant. (This is a practice I heartily recommend.) Perhaps the Lord Jesus, filled with pleasure at your faithfulness, will say, "Beloved, you remember that $200 you gave to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering? I used that to keep Joe Missionary in Country X so that he might preach my gospel to my children. Your stewardship brought much return for my money! Well done, good and faithful servant." I suppose that your joy in that moment would be quite great at hearing what those resources you gave accomplished.

Imagine now that you see Joe Missionary and hear the Master, filled with joy, honor his stewardship. "Beloved, do you remember the people of Country X that you prayed for day and night. The ones you left home and family to serve? The ones who you loved even to the death for my sake? You did not labor in vain, for I birthed many children through your faithful service to them and to Me. Well done, good and faithful servant." You sacrificed $200. He sacrificed his life. Who will have the greater joy at seeing the hosts of Country X praising the Lamb of God before the throne? Whoever invests the most in Christ's kingdom will see the greater return of joy in the end.

Bring that down to the pew where the average church-goer simply shows up on Sunday morning "to get fed." They expect a good, non-sleepy message from the pastor. They want friendliness in the Sunday School class. They want a phone call if they miss church. They want their children taught by the Youth Minister and the babies kept in the nursery. They want the music jamming and they want their songs sang and they want no griping or hypocrisy. Here is the typical attitude, "Church is about me worshipping the Lord and hearing good preaching and frankly, your sin distracts me."

I have more bad news, beloved. The pew-sitter is not the only problem. Another problem is the person who volunteers for nursery out of mere obligation and not because they view babies as precious image-bearers to be prayed over and cooed at and loved like the most valuable things in the universe. Or adults who sit trhough the Youth Pastor's sermon more intent on critiquing his short-comings than loving him like a servant of God. This has been true of me more times than I care to remember. I have found that my criticism of others has decreased significantly since I have been in the ministry. (Much like my criticism of other people's parenting skills since having a child.)

I'm willing to bet that there are problems in the church you are attending, and they probably have nothing to do with doctrinal heresy. If this is the case, then I say that you are blessed because this will mean fruitful labor for your soul. Serve like an instrument of righteousness. Let God use you to polish His bride. Just remember that while you are rubbing on others that they are rubbing on you.


Even So... said...

Amen, amen, and amen! We never seem to get enough teaching on rewards in heaven, as if it is selfish, when the truth is, it is self-ish (read: self centered) not to...

1 Corinthians 15:58
Colossians 3:17, 23-24

Julie said...

My comment in the last blog was to say that we do not have church on Sunday evening. That is the service that most people seem so willing to cancel. This is our first church that does not have services on Sunday nights.
I agree with your blog. It is important that people spend time with their families. But the church is the best place to spend that time. You never here anyone saying to cancel a school activity. But most will never miss the school activity but they will miss going to church. We are fixing to have a Bible study at our house called, "Called and Accountable" and we are praying that God will open peoples eyes to what is most important. GOD!

Lisa writes... said...

I know that you know that this post hits home for me...and I appreciate (as always) your wisdom and straight talk.

Rebekah said...

Wow. Thank you for this needed encouragement to get over myself and live for and worship my Savior and stop wasting time complaining and wishing things were "better" at my church. This really is convicting to me.

Michelle- This One's For The Girls said...

Good post. I appreciated it.

Sista Cala said...

The book of Acts tells me that the Early Church saints, broke bread daily. Not many folks today are up to that either. Many can't even manage a 3 night revival.