I’ve been in and around churches most of my life. One thing I can say is that when people’s lives are turned upside down by a crisis, fellow believers are quick to rally-round and do whatever is necessary. I’ve seen families who’ve lost their source of income be supported temporarily by the church, people who’ve experienced a death in the family provided food and comfort – my family was blessed with this kind of ministry recently after my dad died. Rarely does the church have to plead with people to help in such situations, it just happens. Why? Because people see the urgency of the situation and see themselves as part of the solution. As Christians we’re commanded to care for those among us who are in need. The desire to do that is, in fact, one of the marks of a Christian and the unwillingness to do so calls into question one’s faith (I John 3:17).
But, when it comes to other important things, like teaching a Sunday school class, working in the nursery or volunteering in some other capacity in the church it’s often a struggle to find people to help. Why is that? Why the difference between willingness to help an individual and willingness to help the church, the body of Christ? While there are likely many reasons, I believe it’s largely a failure to view the mundane, everyday tasks which facilitate the church in her calling with the same urgency as the personal crisis.
The church is God’s chosen instrument for the propagation of the gospel and the discipling of believers. There is no other plan. When she does not have the resources needed to accomplish those tasks, that is every bit as serious as a personal tragedy. And while I’m certain few Christians would say the work of the church is unimportant, if we don’t give of our time, treasure and talents we’re in essence saying we either don’t believe the lost will spend eternity in hell or that it’s not really a big deal if they do. We’re also saying it’s OK if baby Christians stay that way and never move from drinking the milk of the word to eating the meat of the word (Hebrews 5:12).
Every believer is given spiritual gifts and God intends for believers to use the gifts He’s given them in service of the body (See I Corinthians 12 for an extended discussion of this). When a church is missing an eye or a foot, metaphorically speaking, that is just as serious as when an individual is physically impaired – and Christians should be just as quick to come along side the body and pitch in as needed to alleviate the crisis.
So next time you’re asked to change diapers in the nursery or chaperon a youth event or teach a class, treat it as if you’re being asked to mend a brother’s broken limb or provide a meal for someone in need. For ministering to the body of Christ in these ways is just as important as meeting the physical and emotional needs of individuals in distress – perhaps more so.