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.