- Proverbs 5:23 “He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.”
- Proverbs 10:21 “The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.”
- Isaiah 5:13 “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge…”
- Isaiah 34:16 “Seek from the book of the LORD, and read…”
- Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”
Our churches are full of people who attend faithfully and participate in Sunday service with their songs and attentiveness. The problem is that only about ten percent of the people are active in some form of service at church (usher, teacher, choir, etc.), but even fewer are ministering in accordance with God’s calling on their lives. Ephesians 4:11-17 clearly instructs that the people be trained in accordance with their calling, so that, “By what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
God wants to grow the body of Christ; the church. This is not limited to some mental state of education or knowledge. Preaching provides people the prophetic (speaking-forth) utterings which are needed. God uses the preacher to touch on the various areas of the person’s life. Preaching fulfills much in the way of helping the person to hear from God in a manner to which the person is open at the moment. The reason we go to listen to a preacher is we expect God to reveal something to us He wants us to put into action.
This is where I believe the ball is dropped, both by the church and by the person. Each is expecting the other to make the first move. Each is expecting the other to understand what they should be doing. Each will end up blaming the other for not taking the initiative. The problem here is they are both right, and both wrong.
As a pastor/counselor/Bible teacher, I am in the presence of other pastors quite often. When I hear praise from their lips regarding members of their congregations, it is almost always for those members who volunteer and help out in the church; those who do not have to be coerced into doing something. One of the biggest complaints of many pastors is that they have to constantly remind their members that help is needed. These pastors need ushers, choir members, cleanup crews, and a bunch of other things done, and that is just during church services. Don’t even think about asking people to donate more of their time doing other things at other times, they have a life after all.
As a counselor, I see a completely different thing. Because I am a counselor, I tend to encounter people at their most difficult times. I never have anyone show up and pay the counseling fee to tell me of how wonderful things are in their lives. The believers and church members I meet in these sessions are usually not those “get up and go” types which make up the ten percent who are active workers. When I start to delve into their religious lives, I seem to always run into some “void.” The “void,” for the great majority of these people, turns out to be a lack of knowledge of what God wants from them specifically.
They hear all the sermons, they even listen to some of them, and they may apply some of the ones they understood. The problem is not just that they don’t apply the teachings from the sermons, it is that they wouldn’t even know how, should they actually want. Just because the sermon was eloquent, spiritual, and “clear,” it does not mean the listener received or understood the message. Preachers tend to self-deceive by thinking that people are really understanding, because one or two persons give them accolades regarding the sermon. They (the preachers) convince themselves that they are being successful at actually motivating the congregation.
The biggest complaint from church members is preachers tend to be long-winded but say very little of practical use. Usually their concern stems from not being sure of the motives of the speaker for the particular message. The preacher may believe He is sharing life-changing truths which will have immediate effect on the listeners, while the listeners may be wondering how long he will be preaching, because they forgot to turn off the beans on the stove. Some preachers think the way to get people to do something is to keep repeating the same old sermons until their listeners get tired of hearing them and get moving.
For example, one Sunday morning I visited a local church where the pastor preached on giving. The church had been going through a decline of members and the finances had declined as well. The pastor was struggling with meeting the financial needs of the ministry and felt pressured. That morning, the pastor seemed almost angry at the members. He scolded them for not giving more. As I listened to him, I looked around at the few remaining members of his congregation, and I could sense they were not happy, and I wondered whether they would come back to the next service. When I later spoke with the pastor, he kept going on about how his members were not applying what he was preaching. He told me he had been preaching on tithing, giving, and offering for the last two months, and instead of the finances growing, they were diminishing. The poor soul believed the way to motivate his members to give more was to badger them until they did.
As I said above, the reason we go to listen to a preacher is we expect God will reveal something to us He wants us to put into action. Sermons obviously have a valuable place in helping people learn of God’s desires for His children. But, along with the preaching and teaching, people need training. They need to be trained in the area of their “calling” from God. The job of the church is to help the person identify their calling from God, and then to provide the member with the resources to develop the skills, hone their abilities, and then provide a safe environment to practice the training in real ministry to others.
On the other hand, it is also the responsibility of the member to seek out the assistance of the church in the area of training for their calling. No believer can use the excuse that they have not responded to God’s calling because the church has not done their part. Each person is responsible to God for their own actions and inactions. Even if no one helps the person “called” by God, they must move forward while trusting God for the help they need.
Nevertheless, the church must self-evaluate and see if they are providing the training, or at least the resources for getting the needed training. Most people who attend church do so because they want to go to a weekly meeting where they “hear” from God, and then they live their normal, regular, lives, until the next church meeting. Many of those will have no problems with a little volunteer work at the church during service, but in many instances, they will not be active in any type of ministry throughout the rest of the week.
Most churches just hope their people will hear the sermons and just start doing something. Churches need to take proactive steps. I have included some suggestions which, in my humble opinion, will help to comply with God’s Word, and produce mature and active people who will get busy about God’s calling on their life through personal ministries.
- The church should create and implement a process by which they help members identify their calling from God.
- Once the calling is identified, the church should help the member identify resources which may be used to develop personal skills and strengthen abilities which will result in their becoming capable and qualified to minister to others.
- The church should maintain a hands-on facilitation of the training, with the purpose in mind of assuring the member the training they are getting is the appropriate one for their calling.
- When the member has reached a point of qualification, the church should provide an environment which will be conducive to the expectations of the training received.
- Once a member has demonstrated proficiency in the administration of their ministry, they should be “commissioned” by the church to do their ministry as an extension of the church body, to minister to the whole, as well as the public, where it may apply.
- Start on the next member.