It’s okay to say NO – even in church

Many sermons manage in one way or another to relay the subtle (sometimes not so subtle) message that the people in the pew simply aren’t doing enough and anyone who is doing enough isn’t doing it well enough. These types of sermons are designed to make people feel guilty about such things as the amount of money they give, their level of church participation  and how faithful they are to church attendance.

One preacher often used this evil dig: if you love the pastor, you’ll attend church Sunday mornings; if you love the people, you’ll be at the Sunday night service too but if you love the Lord you’ll also be at Wednesday night Bible study.  A few titters came from the congregation but this smart-aleck smug attitude discourages people. The real message it sends is this: if you’re not here every time the doors are open, you’d better feel guilty about it.

Many people arrive at church in need of encouragement. Their hearts long for God’s Word and the kindness and love of fellow believers. They’re already overwhelmed by home and job responsibilities. It’s their time to receive something from the pulpit, an anointed sermon and heartfelt prayer. They need to receive from other members of the congregation – affection, thoughtfulness and again, prayer.

They don’t need to hear a razzamatazz of announcements that will fill their already crowded calendars. Women especially don’t want to hear that ten pans of lasagna and 100 dozen cookies are needed for the following week. (Don’t they sell that stuff in stores?) Or that a busload of teens are descending on the church and every one of them will require a billet.

And no one – man, woman or child – ever needs a drawn-out begging fest for money.

I know, I know, somebody has to do the heavy lifting in church. The question each person in the pew needs to answer is – does it need to be me?

After years of exhaustive “service to the Lord” I finally gave myself permission to say NO to many church requests – and it was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. It freed me to think about what Jesus wants me to do with my life – surely there’s more to my service for God than filling in my name on endless miles of sign-up sheets.

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 7:23 – “You were bought with a price – purchased with a preciousness and paid for (by Christ); then do not yield yourselves up to become (in your own estimation) slaves to men, (but consider yourself slaves to Christ). (Amplified version)

God sees you as an individual not as just another church member. We each have a calling from God and gifts we’ve received to fulfil that calling. Many pew people have greater gifts for soul-winning than pulpit people. But too many get caught up fulfilling someone else’s ministry and never get on with their own telling-people-about-God calling.

When the busyness of doing church hinders our calling in Christ; when we feel more discouraged exiting the church than entering, something is wrong. And no one can fix it but us.

The best way to start the fixing process is by saying NO to things that hinder and YES to fulfilling God’s call in our lives. We don’t have to shout our NOs – we can be polite – but we do have to be firm.

A question to ask ourselves? Am I more concerned with pleasing the pastor and the people in my church than I am in pleasing God?

Making it personal: God, I’ve allowed myself to become overwhelmed by taking on too many duties. Give me the courage to say NO and help me to walk away guilt free.

One Good Word Makes all the Difference by Rose McCormick Brandon, is available here.


About Rose McCormick Brandon

An award winning personal experience writer, Rose McCormick Brandon is a frequent contributor to faith magazines, devotionals and compilations, including Chicken Soup for the Soul. Rose is the author of Promises of Home: Stories of Canada's British Home Children (2014). One Good Word Makes all the Difference (2013), He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me (2012) and Vanished: What Happened to My Son. She's a frequent contributor to The Testimony, Today's Pentecostal Evangel and other faith magazines in Canada, U.S. and Australia. Rose also writes about Canadian history, specifically the era of Child Immigration from Britain. Read her stories of child immigrants at:
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10 Responses to It’s okay to say NO – even in church

  1. Reblogged this on Listening to my Hair Grow and commented:

    This particular post has more visitors than any other. After 2-1/2 years I’m still getting private messages from people who find they’ve taken on too many church responsibilities. They’re often troubled from years of people-pleasing. In the hope that others who need this message will read it, I’m re-posting it.

    • Joan says:

      Thanks, Rose!
      The “best” I’ve heard so far was at a church I once (and I do mean once) visited. The pastor asked the congregation how many of them had spent an hour the night before preparing for the Sunday church service!
      Jesus always knew how to set priorities. Our priorities should be the things He leads us to as we grow in our relationship with Him, not what someone else has decided would be the most spiritual thing for us to do.

      • You are so right Joan – each of us a personal relationship with Jesus and our allegiance is to Him. Yet, I know from experience how easy it is to fall into mindset of pleasing people. It happens so slowly, we barely know it’s happening, then one day, a light goes on, and we can’t believe we’ve allowed ourselves to drift so far from where we started. But God forgives, we shed a few tears, or maybe a lot of tears, and start down the right path again

  2. vanyieck says:

    It’s church as a body vs. church as a meeting in a building. It’s time the paradigm was shifted from the latter to the former.

  3. Right on Rose!! Any one still struggling with this can check out the Bible study–Fool Proofing Your Life, by Jan Silvious.

    Brenda J Wood

  4. Diane Bird-Thompson says:

    Thanks Rose..I’m finally learning to say “NO” and I feel better about it. I quit signing lists and do what I want and give what and when I choose. I love giving but I don’t want everyone to see and know what I’m doing. Hope that is not a haughty attitude, but I want to please The Lord, not the people! Love reading your articles, we still miss you, and hope to keep in touch.
    Luv Diane

    • Rose says:

      Hi Diane – God has given you a sincere desire to please Him. It takes time for each of us to find our place in the Body of Christ. When we find our place, we have to stop doing some of the fruitless works we did before. There simply isn’t enough time to please God and people. In Matthew 6 Jesus talks about 3 things that people often do in public that should be done in secret – praying, fasting and giving. There are exceptions as when a group fasts, prays and gives. But generally, we should give as if we’re giving to the Lord and not for the approval of other people. I love hearing from you – Rose

  5. Anne, I love the way describe “type A personality scurrying about in a explosion of activity,” what an apt description. There’s freedom in saying ‘no’ to the things that keep us from really following God. Less activity is often more in God’s eyes.

  6. Anne Laidlaw says:

    Say it loud, say it clear!
    Isn’t it sad that we have reduced the Lord’s calling to guilt giving threats. Now, I’m the first to confess that apathy has kept my passion wilting while I fritter away time never caring about eternity or it’s consequences. What upsets me is when others try to force me down a path that I’m not called to go down.
    There’s always some good intentioned person with a type A personality scurrying about in a explosion of activity, and God bless them if that’s their calling, but where the issue gets blurred is sometimes they think their calling is for one and all. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been encouraged to sign up for an activity that feels like a punch in the gut, and if I don’t sign, I’m told, more or less, that I don’t love the Lord.
    Thank God, those days are gone. I too, have learned to say ‘no’ to pressure and ‘yes’ to God’s calling.

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