the weblog of Alan Knox

Because we feel like we’re not doing anything important

Posted by on Dec 7, 2011 in community, discipleship, missional, service | 6 comments

Because we feel like we’re not doing anything important

I’ve had several conversations over the last few weeks – really stretching back a few months – and, if I really tried, I could probably think of conversations over the last few years – about the difference between doing things officially as “church” and simply doing things with other brothers and sisters in Christ. From what I can tell, it boils down to this: When we do things sponsored by “the church,” it makes us feel like we’re doing something more important, more holy, more eternal, more official.

Now, don’t get me wrong… when I stop and talk to people about this, they admit that comforting a sister who is mourning over a cup of coffee is extremely important discipleship type stuff. But, it’s not quite as… something… as doing an activity or attending a meeting that is sponsored by “the church.” “Yes,” I’ve heard people say, “the friends were sisters in Christ,” and, “yes,” they would continue, “they were gathered in Jesus’ name,” and, “of course,” they insist, “they were encouraging and comforting her and helping her to respond to her problems in a godly manner,” and, “it’s true,” they might even conclude, “that time together with one another was more similar to the examples we read about in the New Testament”… but, still, that was just friends having coffee together. It wasn’t really a “church” thing.

So, what is it about having something sanctioned by the church that makes it seem more important, more holy, more official? Is it simply something that people have been brought up to think? A group of co-workers meeting for prayer during lunch is great, but it’s not quite the same thing as a prayer meeting at church. A few friends gathering to study the Bible is awesome, but wouldn’t it be even better if it was a church sponsored “Bible Fellowship Club Meeting”? You’re taking some food to a family in need? That’s amazing! But, why not take part in the church’s benevolence program? The committee meets every fourth Tuesday.

I know these questions sound sarcastic, and there is obviously tongue-in-cheek to my examples above. But, the point is serious.

I’ve talked with so many people who are loving their neighbors and serving their communities and proclaiming the gospel and discipling friends and praying for others, but they feel like their activities are somehow LESS because they are not church-sponsored activities. I’m assuming that their church leaders would be ecstatic that these people are actually living out what we read about in Scripture, and perhaps they are. But, for some reason, the people I’ve talked to are made to feel as if they are not actually loving, serving, evangelizing, or discipling people because the things they are doing are not part of the official programs of the church.

“Yes,” they have been told, “Please continue to do those things. But, you should also take part in these events that we sponsor.”

Again, I’m hoping that this is unintentional. And, thus, the point of this post. Are you a church leader, either recognized or not, either official or not, either paid or not, either professional or no? Consider what you’ve said to people. Are you encouraging them to serving God by loving him and loving others in any opportunity that God brings into their lives? Or, are you somehow – even unintentionally – communicating that it only “counts” if what they are doing is part of the officially sanctioned and recognized programs and activities of your church organization?

Trust me, these people are serving God. You’re not helping if that’s what you’re doing… even if it’s unintentional.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-7-2011

    I think you have summarized the “missional” concept perfectly. I’ve said something like this before: pastors and church leaders have so much to loose under our current structures that there is a hesitance to bless the kind of activity you’ve written about. If the church has become an organization of consumuers then it has to keep people doing “church things” or it will die. However, if the church is truly an eccelesia which serves a mission then what you have said is good and right. And of course I think it is.

  2. 12-7-2011

    What makes it an official sanctioned program or activity? Scripture sure doesn’t.

  3. 12-7-2011

    Even before doing ministry that doesn’t “count” if what we are doing is not part of the officially recognized programs and activities of our church organization, there is the issue of feeling like we need permission or we are somehow operating outside of God’s “best” will (or even acting so far out of His will as to be acting rebelliously).

    I will not equate the formal organisation of the church with the leaders in Israel whose reaction to Peter and John was, “let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.” These were not believers and they were not brothers in Christ. But this is how formal leaders often act when they require permission and authorization to speak and act in His name.

    John and Peter answered this as we should, as we must, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

    God’s word is all the authority we could ask for, and we cannot recognize and defer to any other who tells us to be quiet and sit down.

  4. 12-7-2011


    Even though I tagged this in the “missional” category, I had thought about it the way did. Do you think this tendency keeps many people from actually living in God’s mission?


    I’m guessing that would change with each organization.


    I agree. If God directs us to do something, we do it. Period. And, in doing so, we are serving him, regardless of what others might say about it. (And, by the way, the opposite is true as well. If God does not direct us to do something – i.e., we do it for some other reason – then we are not serving God, regardless of what other people say about it.)


  5. 12-8-2011

    If we are using our God-given gifts, then we are fulfilling our sanctioned duties,

    – Merri

  6. 12-8-2011


    And, even when we’re serving in ways that we’re not specifically gifted by God.