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Entries in Church Life (2)


Amputation is not an option

About 23 years ago, my husband and I, along with our infant daughter, began attending a wonderful little church where we grew in leaps and bounds. The expository teaching there was rich. This was the first real introduction to Calvinistic teaching I had ever received, and even though it lasted only a couple of years, it had a lot of influence on my faith. I was sad when the pastor had to resign for family reasons.

Following that, our little church banded together to hire a new pastor. The preaching wasn't like the previous pastor but it was fine. That is, until he began talking about his growing fascination with something called the Toronto Airport Ministry. When he began challenging the inerrancy of the entirety of Scripture, his removal was achieved quickly. This, naturally, caused a split in the church, and in the end, it broke up entirely. This was painful. Everyone seemed to go his own way rather than find support in one another, but that is the stuff of church splits.

For a while, we floundered. With three small children, it was easy to find excuses not to go. It was hard to find a church where we felt it was safe. Considering how easily the pastor had kept his charismatic tendencies quiet, only revealing them slowly, we were gun shy. Once you start getting out of the habit, it becomes easier and easier to stay home. That was a very spiritually dry time for me. Even when we settled down in a church and attended fairly often, my heart wasn't in it. We went mostly for the kids. When you have small children and start skipping church regularly, it sends a message.

In 1996, we moved back here to Ontario, and began attending our current church. The pastor was the man who had performed our wedding ceremony. His expository preaching was like a cold drink of water on a hot and humid day. I didn't realize how hungry I'd been until I began feasting again. Slowly, even though it was a difficult time in general, I began to be active in the Body of Christ again. I got involved in a bible study, and I started working in the kids' club.

When we are born again, we are born again into something: the Body of Christ. Amputation is not an option. If we isolate ourselves, it is as if we are amputating an arm or a leg. Limbs die when they are cut off from the body. When we cut ourselves off from the Body, we will not grow. Not only will we not be ministered to, we will not minister to others.

I am not talking about people who have obstacles to their attendance; obstacles beyond their control. I'm talking about people who can, but choose not to go. I'm talking about people who think that they can put their lives in Christ on hold until a future time. The longer we stay disconnected from the Body, the harder it can become to reconnect. When someone has a limb severed in an accident, there is a small window of time when it can be re-attached before the tissue dies. God always welcomes us back to the fold, but the longer we stay away, the easier it is to become apathetic. It's easier to start thinking like the world again. I know what I'm talking about. Looking back, by the time I arrived here in 1996, I was quite apathetic.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:3-5)

We are members of one another; when we cut ourselves off from the body, we damage the body. Not only that, what message do we send our children? Folks who don't take their children to church regularly may wonder why, when they get older they don't want to go. It's not rocket science.

Life in the body; it's not an option.


Can a leader be self-appointed?

Last night at my church, there was a celebration in recognition for the 33 years of service my in-laws contributed to youth ministry at my church. Thirty-three years with teenagers. Can you imagine? My in-laws saw all of their grandchildren pass throuth youth ministry while they were still there, and they retired at the end of last year.

Part of the festivities was hearing from men and women who were once under their teaching and guidance in the group, two pastors, a young mother attending our church, and my husband. In each case, these people pointed out one thing about my in-laws that I know to be true: they are humble servants.

In 1979, when my in-laws joined the youth ministry, they were called "leaders" but they did not sit down one night and say to themselves, "Hey, we need leaders. Let's be leaders." What they did was see a need and humbly agree to answer to call to fill it.

I have thought about the word "leader" a lot over the weekend, being directed to it by to a few things I read last week, this special event, and my studies in Nehemiah. When Nehemiah saw the need in Jerusalem, he was undone (Nehemiah 1:4). He sat down and wept and mourned for days when he heard about the problem in Jerusalem. He continued to fast and pray for months before going to the King and asking for leave to go to Jerusalem, before assuming leadership. His attitude was one of humility, and he proves his worth throughout the account of the rebuilding of the walls.

When I think about good leaders, I am often struck by how quickly they are to resist the notion that they are leaders. My in-laws are not attention-seekers. They don't look for fame or repute. They simply serve the God they love. I have a husband like that as well. He is a very good leader, but it's not something he seeks, and it's not something he wears like a badge. He doesn't go around telling others he's a leader; he just does it. That is the way my in-laws work, too. They simply go about their business with humility and devotion.

Can a leader appoint himself? Yes.  I, personally, am cautious about people who do that. In my brief 48 years on earth, it's been my observation that the best leaders aren't the ones who go around bragging about their position. Frankly, some of the worst leaders are the ones who are too aware of the fact.  The best leaders aren't necessarily the ones with the loudest voices, the biggest audiences, or the most profound words. The best leaders are the ones who are servants, and who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, to be inconvenienced, or to simply be unnoticed. Good leaders don't seek the limelight.

Yes, leaders can be self-appointed, but give me the cautious leader any day. I am thankful that I've been blessed to know true servant leaders. They spur me on to work quietly and diligently.