Sometimes I forget. Sometimes in the midst of church life, I just do and forget the who. I forget the why and do not rest in His because.
As I talk to people who have left the local church, I get it. It’s easy to become disillusioned and frustrated, disconnected from unmet expectations, but regardless of the reason, my heart grieves. Scripture exhorts us to gather with a body of believers, to teach and pray, to worship and serve humbly alongside Christ followers, so what leaves us longing for more?
I can’t begin to dissect that in one post, but this quote once said by my former worship leader continues to resonate in my own heart because I’ve been culpable as well:
The greatest impediment to your spiritual intimacy is your giftedness. Because you are gifted, you are going to be able to make life work within the church without ever knowing God well.
Do we know Christ well? Are we longing for a deep and abiding relationship with our heavenly Father, prioritizing that over all else? It’s so easy to make church work in our own strength, pursuing it with our own agenda, and looking for what meets our own needs. Yet that will never satisfy our deepest longing within the local church. The newest spiritual trends may captivate an audience, but the impact of a spectacular worship service performance doesn’t gain more of God’s approval.
As I desire to grow in the gospel within a healthy church, I routinely ask myself these questions:
- Am I part of a church where the leaders make church work based largely on their giftedness? Am I held accountable if I do the same?
- As I listen to the pastors or teachers, am I drawn to their charismatic personality and motivating manner, or am I drawn solely to the Master? Am I left with applicable stories and a self-help philosophy or a call to pursue holiness and sanctification?
- As I serve in the local church, have I let my spiritual gifts block the intended intimacy waiting with my Father?
Routinely, I peel back layers to examine that last question. If I’m honest about barriers keeping me from a deeper relationship with Him, I’ve come to the altar with a performance hat in motion. Sometimes, there is a power struggle, a fierce competition t0 captivate our whole hearts because we’re preoccupied with all things self. Culture screams, “Produce! Accomplish! Succeed!” So we jump in and strive, reach and grab, all in the attempt to do more, be more, and make more. It’s easy for me to “do what I do best,” and yet there in lies that double-edged tension many of us wrestle with regularly.
We’ve committed to memory Ephesians 2:8-9, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” But James also stresses the importance that “faith without works is dead.”
It’s not either faith or works; it’s both/and.
When we examine the heart motive behind the works we do, faith compels us to step out in obedience because we’ve experienced the Savior’s undeserved grace and overwhelming love. We begin to understand that we don’t have to point others to His abundance; we get to. In fact, God doesn’t need us to accomplish His greater purpose, but we get to be a part in proclaiming His glory.
That’s how a healthy church works. It will never be perfect. No matter how hard we try, it will never meet all our needs because there is only One who can. In the most simplistic of terms, we commit to a healthy church as a bunch of sinners, saved by grace, who don’t just tell the story of His redemptive love but humbly demonstrate it. We “just do it” because He already did it all for us on the cross. It’s only for Him and His glory.
My prayer is that I may never stand before a congregation sharing a spoken word, serving coffee, leading music, holding a child in the nursery, or opening doors by just making church work. If I lean in that direction of performance, may my hypocrisy ring so true that I can’t continue and am brought to my knees.
Because even with my desire to serve and share, it’s not about my work. It’s about His work that He so faithfully, generously, and graciously sharpens in me. I’m slowly learning to get out of my own way.
How about you? Out of a grateful and humble heart for all He’s done for you, how are you using your unique gifts to impact others? Whether to your family, neighbors, co-workers, or maybe even an (in)courage friend here in the comments, He desires to use you to be the difference for someone today. His work will be completed. The choice of how is up to us. Don’t doubt the impact you can have on the lives of those around you. A single gift, given as an offering, hands wide open, unrestrained, impacts generations.
Just do it out of gratitude because that’s holy work.