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.