For several decades Dr. Eddie Gibbs studied veraciously, wrote extensively and taught widely on the Church. A few years ago, Eddie made a brief sidebar comment to a class of the Arrow Leadership Program. I hope I never forget it. In talking about the Church, he said, “She’s not optional.”
Those three words are prophetic for our day. In our 24-7-365 overextended lives, it’s tempting to put our involvement in a local church body in the “optional” category. Furthermore, many Christ-followers seem to treat the Church similar to their t.v. cable company. If they can get a better deal at another outlet, they switch. If they can find another way to get services, they simply stop subscribing.
One root problem is that many Christ-followers view church engagement as an “ought to” or a “have to” rather than a “get to”. It’s important to remember that as Christ-followers we are designed to function as a body, the Church, of which Christ is the head.
We get to gather together as a church body every week. We get to see and hear brothers and sisters that are in the midst of deep struggles sing praises to God. We get to pray for and encourage one another. We get to sing God’s praises and hear God’s Word. We get to remember we are not alone. We get to serve and contribute our gifts and resources to projects we could never do on our own. We get to be part of a local and global community of Christ-followers focused on God’s purposes and splendor.
It’s easy to point to the many failures and foibles of the Church over history. We can also point to present-day faults and frustrations. However, we need to remember Jesus’ example of living, loving, serving and suffering in the context of deep community. He demonstrated this even when the community around him was clearly far from perfect. Remember his crucible moment at the garden of Gethsemane? Jesus chose to model a commitment to community even when Peter, James and John had let him down before and even when they wouldn’t stay awake in his most desperate hour.
I know I’m likely “writing to the choir,” but let me share several applications for Christian leaders today:
Pastors and Church Leaders:
- Remember, there is nothing like the Church at her best.
- Be intentional equippers of the saints – especially for the 100 waking hours every Christ-follower stewards each week outside of church programs.
- Be prayerful, innovative change agents passionately seeking to reach the multitudes who are disconnected from God.
- Keep pressing on as courageous servant-leaders of a mission focused on God’s purposes and splendor.
- We need you to keep prayerfully pioneering fresh expressions of the Church! Keep pressing on!
- Remember that the Church of the future needs to be built on humility and dependence – not pride, tactics or perfectionism.
- Remember a love for the Church is a pre-requisite to serving alongside her.
- Stay personally connected to and serving in a local church community.
- Watch for and address any feelings of superiority or deep frustration before they create spiritual blockages.
Remember you get to. Lean in. Pray for your pastor(s) and elders. Stay connected. Take risks to develop deeper relationships and community. Be an encourager. Serve. And show up – especially when you don’t feel like it.
Above all, remember, she’s not optional.
To the Point,
Dr. Steve A. Brown
President, Arrow Leadership
Adapted from Dr. Steve A. Brown’s new book, Leading Me – Eight Practices for a Christian Leader’s Most Important Assignment (Castle Quay, 2015). Available today at the Arrow Store or e-versions at on-line retailers.