“Two are better than one…And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”-Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12
We talk quite a bit about our congregation at North Second Street in the corporate sense. God continues to bless us. We are growing. What are we going to do in 2023? But for the “we” to prosper, all the “I’s” have to show up!
It is absolutely right to talk mainly about our congregation as one cohesive unit. It is the Christ-like thing to fold our egos and energies into one body of Jesus our Lord, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”-Matthew 10:39. But there are two dangers we must avoid.
Danger #1: We are big enough the church can get by without me. Whoa there horsey! Is there a different kind of pressure to show up when there are only 50-60 in attendance? Of course there is! There are 14 duties listed on our worklist every Sunday. That doesn’t include teaching Bible classes, Lord’s Supper preparation, greeting visitors, cleaning the building, and participating in our group outreach activities.
Yes, it is easy to fall into thinking, “Well, they will be alright without me this time.” “I’ll just stay home and put on the livestream.” But what kind of attitude is that?!?! Would I skip worship if I knew Jesus were going to be there in the flesh? The secret is, our Lord is with us every time we assemble, “the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”-Ephesians 2:21-22.
Besides, every member of the local church makes a difference. We averaged 65 on Sunday mornings in 2022. What would happen if three more people came on the weeks we were in the seventies? How much more encouraged would we be if five more made the effort on the few weeks we mustered under fifty? There is never an assembly of the saints where every temple of the Holy Spirit isn’t needed to accomplish the Lord’s purpose.
Danger #2: I don’t get as much attention as I used to. I can feel this one in my soul. When we are busting at the seams, I see people walking out the door without having a chance to speak. Ouch! I love talking to everyone who comes through the door. To continue to grow, it means the minister has a unique responsibility to get to know visitors when we can lay our hands on them. If it seems as if you are taken for granted, please understand that is not the case. Invite me to lunch. Let’s have coffee. It may take some creativity, but let’s make the effort.
There are two ways to alleviate this problem. I have always said, to grow, we have to turn our weaker members into stronger Christians. It takes all hands on deck to call, teach, encourage, write, and mentor baby sheep1. If we are a flock of lambs who need constant attention, who will work with the newcomers? In the words the Holy Spirit gave the writer of Hebrews, “Go on to maturity!”-Hebrews 6:1.
Avoid the temptation to exercise self-pity. There will be growing pains. My favorite seat might be taken. I may have to sit in the foyer or squeeze into a pew with people I don’t know. This Sunday, Wendy and Keely sat on one row and I found space on another. Praise God!! If we were on a bus leaving for heaven, would we complain about the seating?
The other solution is for us all to grow from consumers into providers. When I think of church, do I think, “What can they do for me?” or “How can I use the gifts God gives me to build up someone else?” In my experience, those who are pulling on the same rope, are not the ones sitting back and criticizing. Get to work serving others. You will be shocked at how infrequently you worry about me and how much you rejoice in the we!