She was in her late twenties and was a marginal Christian at best. Most of the time she would only come to worship when a new catalog for the cosmetics company for which she was a distributor would come out. She wanted to make sure all the ladies had one.
She had been visited and exhorted to be more faithful. One day, while visiting her along with another member, I spoke to her about being more active in the work of the church. She tersely replied that she had been sick for two weeks and then with a pout added that no one from the church had called her. In my mind I questioned that because I knew how great the Christians of that congregation were about checking on those who were absent. That’s not what came out of my mouth though. During that two week period, one of the faithful Christian ladies had a daughter who had suffered a miscarriage. The family was devastated. We had announced it and people were praying, but this sister had no knowledge of it because she was not involved in the lives of her fellow Christians. I told her about the loss of the baby and “suggested” that if she would stop thinking so much about herself and focus more on others, she would be happier and more faithful to God. She felt the church wasn’t helping her, but how much effort was she putting into helping the church?
They were a young couple in their mid to late twenties. They left the congregation where I was preaching to worship with another. When I found out, I called to ask why they left. “We wanted to go to a congregation where there were more people our age,” was the answer. I replied, “Instead of going somewhere else, did you ever think about teaching the Gospel to more people your age and helping that number grow here?” Awkward silence was followed by obvious anger at such a brazen notion. They felt the church wasn’t helping them, but how much effort were they putting into helping the church?
Sadly, some Christians either leave the church or become less involved with it in favor of worldly organizations because they feel their needs are not being met. Reacting to this, we have created program after program to try to hang onto them. It’s as if we are bargaining with the world for these souls. This is not to say that all of these programs are of no value nor is it to say that some of the service organizations are not worthwhile and even necessary. The point demonstrated by the two illustrations is that too often the reason some become dissatisfied with the church, as well as God Himself, is because their focus has turned inward. Their lives have become all about themselves.
In response to the previous sentence, let’s note that the Lord expects us to be servants of our fellow man (Matthew 20:25-28). Now here’s a fact that is amazing but true: Many of our personal needs can be met when we focus on helping others rather than dwelling on ourselves. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). Whenever you feel that life is difficult, go and visit a fellow member of the church in a hospital or nursing home and see what difficulties really are. This won’t necessarily make your needs go away, but it can help you put things in perspective and you will find that the church (or at least one member of it) is fulfilling your needs. Whenever you feel that no one really cares about you, volunteer to help at an orphanage run by and supported by members of the church and witness multiple examples of lives that were thoughtlessly tossed aside by parents who were supposed to care. You stand to develop a greater appreciation for and valuation of life and the church (via the workers at the orphanage and those who support it financially) will be fulfilling your needs. Whenever you think any of your needs, whatever they might be, are not being met, go to visit any faithful fellow Christian and talk about his or her life. Listen carefully. You might be surprised to find that this person has been down or even now is going down the same road you are. Even if that is not the case, you might discover solutions to your challenges in his or her wisdom. Too often we expect the answers to life’s issues to be spoon-fed to us. Any treasure worth having is worth the mining it takes to unearth it. By looking outside of yourself and then meditating on the results of your interaction with others, you can often find the answers to your own needs. This can all be done by going to fellow Christians, thus allowing the church to help you meet your needs.
The church of Christ is not perfect. Her head is perfect, but the body is not. Still, Paul said that we are to prefer one another (Romans 12:10). Faithful Christians are focused on the same goal of heaven and are doing what is required of God to get there. In that sense, Christians are different from the world and can provide insights and guidance that no non-Christian individual or organization ever can. Whenever we have needs, may we first turn to God and to His faithful people with an eye toward being more service oriented and may each of us, as Christians, strive to create an atmosphere of care, concern and compassion in the congregation of which we are a part so that we can be of more help to each other as brothers in sisters in Christ as we progress toward eternity’s shore.