…not neglecting our meetings, as is the practice of some, but encouraging, and doing this even more as we see the day approaching. — Hebrews 10:25
(This is Henry, filling in for Jody again. She is headed out today to south Florida where she will attend some training. Please be in prayer.)
I’m not a great salesman, but I have often been in the position of selling things. I remember one sales meeting when I was a computer specialist for Radio Shack (don’t ask me when!) in which we were told that you don’t talk about features of the product, but about the benefits for the user.
For example, when selling a camcorder, we should find out about the customer and then talk about how the camcorder would record family events, sports activities, or whatever the customer was interested in. You didn’t tell people you had an 8x zoom, but mentioned how you’d be able to focus in more closely on your child in the band marching in the parade.
The reason for all this is that people buy things in order to satisfy their needs and desires, and unless you connect their needs or desires with your product, they don’t respond. Of course you can connect a product with someone’s need that doesn’t actually fulfill that need. That happens quite frequently in sales. It’s called false advertising.
Many of us Christians treat church congregations much like products, and our congregations act very much like salespeople. I’m not saying we’re always good salespeople. Many times we are not. But the basic idea of our membership committees is to convince people that our church is the one that is going to fulfill their needs and desires, and that they are going to feel good when they become members of our church.
But consider this. The one we claim to be following told his disciples that he was offering them the opportunity to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow him (Matthew 16:24). Ouch! Remember that â€œtake up your crossâ€ doesn’t refer to hanging a cross on a light chain around your neck. The cross at that time was a frightful thing, evoking the worst kind of death in people’s minds.
I talked about church attendance as a spiritual discipline yesterday. I would like to suggest that our selection of a church and our participation in church should be judged by â€œtaking up our crossâ€ and not by â€œfulfilling our needs and desires.â€ That is, we should be looking for an opportunity for discipleship, not a vacation spot. We should be seeking to serve, not to be served.
Now don’t get me wrong here. Your church does need to serve your needs. Do I contradict myself? I don’t think so. I need to serve and my church should fulfill that need. In order to serve I need to be fed on God’s word, to be empowered to use my gifts, to have fellowship and prayer support. If my church doesn’t fulfill those needs, I won’t be able to serve.
Elsewhere Jesus also told us to take his yoke on us, and he said that his burden is light. It’s easy to take this to the opposite extreme and assume that if we’re in a church where we have to work hard and where we receive no reward or support, we are doing something spiritually superior. In fact, if you are in a church that doesn’t feed you with God’s word, doesn’t use your gifts, doesn’t pray for you and support you, and that expects you to carry many burdens while others snooze, you’re probably not being a true disciple; you’re just enabling others to shirk their duties.
On the other hand, if you’re one of the snoozing ones, expecting the church to bring the spoon to your mouth before you feed on the word, or avoiding the areas of service to which God has called you, it’s time to wake up. You may be at church, but you’re still neglecting the meeting!
Some people claim that they can have as great a spiritual experience at the beach as they have in church. Doubtless with reference to some churches and some beaches, they are right. If church is defined as the place where I have a great spiritual experience that makes me feel good, then we church people have little argument to make. Let people go to the beach if they think it will work.
But if we realize that church is the body of Christ we do have a call to be disciplesâ€”cross carriersâ€”then we know that lounging on the beach won’t do it, no matter how close to God, or how spiritually elevated we feel.
Is your congregation a body of cross carriers? Would you remain a member if it was?