We live in a “me”centered culture. When making decisions in life, we almost always base our decisions on how we are personally going to be affected by them. Whether it’s big issues like deciding on a career and finding a spouse or small issues like what to eat for dinner, there tends to be a constant deciding factor. What is best for me? What will benefit me the most?
Sadly, I have found this same pattern of thinking when it comes to church membership and ministry. I’ve known people to attend churches solely based on what they were personally getting out of it, or leave churches because they felt like they really weren’t being fulfilled in some aspect. I’ve also known people who hopped from church to church because one church fulfilled one desire in life while another church fulfilled a completely different desire. In many of these cases, self-centeredness was at the heart of it.
Let me be clear. I’m definitely not trying to point the finger. I used to have the same mindset. I thought church was all about what I could get out of it. I mean, isn’t that what churches are for? Aren’t they supposed to pour into me and feed me and grow me? Well, of course that is part of it. We should be gaining something from attending church. One of the purposes is for us to grow in our wisdom and to be encouraged in our faith. But, if that is our only focus, we are seriously missing the greater picture of why God created church.
The Otherness of Church
Church does not exist simply to meet all of our felt needs. It’s about us pouring our lives into the body of Christ and searching for ways in which we can serve others, all for the glory of Christ and the furthering of his kingdom. Even though the body of Christ is made up of redeemed people, we are still in the flesh. Therefore, we need to realize that churches will always be lacking in some areas. Yes, sometimes what is lacking is vital to our growth, like sound biblical teaching and the gospel, and so it’s wise to leave or stay away. However, a lot of things are negotiable and do not really justify abandonment. What’s really needed is for someone to stand up and say, “hey, here’s a need, so I’m going to take action and solve it,” instead of, “this isn’t really working for me, I’m going to leave and go over here.”
My Own Journey
As stated earlier, I used to be of the mindset that church should do things for me. I always have been involved in different ministries, but even then the focus was mostly on me. I only did what was most convenient or fun or what made me look the best. If there was something lacking, I was really good at complaining or gossiping about it, but not at stepping up to change or fix it. That was always someone else’s job. I was just a participant. It wasn’t my responsibility to change it.
Over the past couple of years, the Lord has really shaped and transformed my thinking on this. He has shown me the importance of denying myself and taking up my cross and following him (Matt. 6:24), in all areas of life. I have a responsibility to care for his church. My purpose is to sacrifice my time and convenience in order to serve and encourage my brother and sisters, and take the gospel to a sick and dying world.
A Specific Purpose
As I began to really understand my role and responsibility in church, I began to see the Lord had a specific purpose for me. Over the past few years he has placed a passion in my life for biblical womanhood and, specifically, encouraging single women. As a single woman, I am quite familiar with the struggles we can go through during this season of life. It can sometimes be a daily fight for joy in the midst of loneliness, sadness, and a deep desire that has not yet been met. I want to encourage other women going through the same thing. I want to push and challenge them to use this time for the glory of the Lord. I want to help them fight against complacency and the tendency to sit around moping or pitying themselves. All of this happens in the context of a local church.
The Lord led me to a church about a year ago where there was a need for ministry to singles. It would have been easy to turn away or feel that the task was too daunting to step up and take action. However, the Lord pressed upon my heart and gave me the courage to start a single women’s ministry. Yes, there have been times over the past year where I have felt disappointed or like a failure. There are days when I think, “this isn’t going how I expected” or “maybe I didn’t really understand where God was leading.”
However, even more, I’ve seen his faithfulness in using me to encourage other women. I’ve seen how this ministry has directly impacted lives and it has made all of those hard days worth it. I’ve been overwhelmed by what he has actually done in my own life through this, too. I’ve been deeply encouraged by the women I have met through this. I have gained lasting friendships with women who desire to glorify God above all else, and it pushes me even more to live for Christ. I realize now the blessing I would have missed out on had I not stepped up and followed God’s leading. Most importantly, I would have missed out on seeing and being a part of something that has brought glory to him.
All for the Glory of God
My prayer is that all of us in the body of Christ would have a correct understanding of his Church and our individual roles in it. May we see that church is about us building one another up, encouraging one another, sharpening one another, bearing one another’s burdens, and putting one another above our own conveniences and preferences (I Thess. 5:11-14; Prov. 27:17; Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:3, 10). And, above all, may our focus be to bring glory to our great and holy God in order that the nations will come to know him.
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