This satirical video (which you can find here) about those who have responsibility for greeting people at church will, at least, have you smiling (possibly even creased up laughing).
It humorously deals with what is. in many ways, a very serious issue. I feel welcoming people at church is one of those ministries which can be taken for granted. It is seen as something that is easy to do and is on little consequence in the whole maelstrom of church life. I believe this to be an inappropriate assessment.
The way people are welcomed at the door is so important. Some may be coming to church with many griefs and burdens; a cheery greeting at the door can uplift them and set them up for a good time at church. Some would be coming to your church for the first time. The first impression those people get of the church is likely to be with those greeting them on the door.
Those involved in stewarding / door duty should be gifted with awareness and sensitivity. They need to potentially deal with people becoming ill or other eventualities. Their competence, or lack thereof can effect how church goes for many people.
So take note of those in your church who are involved in this vital ministry. Pray for them and encourage them as they seek to serve the Lord.
Our God is a communicating God. His revelation to us today is a sure word; it is the Bible. He is also a God of love who always acts to work good for His people. If you are a leader among God’s people you are called to represent this God to His people. In our lives as elders, people should see that we are people who communicate well and therein show our love for the people in the church.
So many churches degenerate into confusion as a result of bad communication. Often this takes the form of no communication; people refuse to interact. As a general rule we should be labouring as leaders so that people are interacting well in the church which we shepherd. We need to set an example with this.
We should respond to enquiries and requests for information promptly and courteously. We should seek to not confuse anyone or mess anyone around. If we have various communication platforms such as email, messenger etc., we should make sure that they are regularly checked so that we do not miss anything.
Failure to communicate in a healthy way leads to frustration among the people. They wonder why there has been no response. They are perhaps left to fester on an issue or wonder if they have done anything wrong. Through these means Satan can come in among the people of God and cause disruption.
With a little good organisation, care and attention we can make sure that we do allow the devil any inroads into the fellowship of God’s people.
In Ephesians 4:25-27 we read these words. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Here is a passage which most certainly has direct application to how we communicate together.
So fellow elders let us set a good example here. Let us be diligent in engaging with communicating with the people in our care whether that be personally or through the various electronic channels that we have nowadays.
We recently had the privilege of visiting Italy, Pozzuolli near Naples, to be precise. We stayed with Alec and Patrizia Catchpole and their family. You can find out more about their ministry through these links here and here.
The River of Life church of which Alec is one of the elders is essentially a first generation church made up of those who have been converted within the last fifteen years. It was beautiful to be able to attend their service on a Sunday morning, to be a part of their worship and to meet some of the people.
Their worship service was not dissimilar to ours at Feltham on a Sunday morning. They would not have a split in the service, though, like we have at Feltham with the Lord’s Supper service and preaching and worship all is included in one service in Pozzuolli.
Graciously Alec’s wife Patrizia, and son, Joseph, translated for us and so we could follow what was going on. The preaching by Stephano was sound and lively. The main message was that we are to glory in the Lord and not in his gifts.
Hearing one or two of the testimonies of those converted was such a joy. They were really encouraging to my faith as I was faced with living demonstrations of the grace of our God. This brings me to ponder on the similarity to Barnabas’s experience at Antioch. In Acts 11:22-23 we read: The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
I attended a house group on the Tuesday morning and was struck by their desire to hear God’s word, their affection for Alec and their delight in being together.
Three things I have been left to ponder upon:
- Getting involved in the community. Alec is a gregarious individual and very much a people person. He obviously has a lot of contacts through his mingling in the community of Pozzuolli.
- House groups These seem to be quite fluid in their arrangements. There is one for students and one for the younger adults. Otherwise you can get involved in whatever one you want to and whenever you want to. This may all reflect the haphazardness of the Neapolitan culture, but it has a certain attractiveness.
- Gospel Engagement The commitment to get contact with as many people as possible and get the Word of the gospel, out to as many as possible was striking. I am left thinking about whether we should be more thoughtful about 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. There, in Pozzuolli, they have done various things such as karaoke, concerts, tent missions, watching football on a big screen, playing football amongst others all with a view to making the gospel known to people.
I fear that we are far too lackadaisical in our approach to the affairs of church life. We accept standards that are far too low as regards to how we order our church affairs.
I fear that this is all to do with the fact that we are in essence a volunteer entity. If you are employed a contact and financial remuneration determine that you need to perform to a certain standard. In church though, generally there is no contract and no financial remuneration and or standards can slip.
So we very easily give the impression of casualness and disorderliness. But this should not be so. As Paul says we are the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15b)
We are the church of the living God. Each true church does not stand as some insignificant entity whose activities are of no consequence. No each church stands to represent the God who is God and that God alone.
How can we be doing anything other then striving for excellence when the One we serve is the all beautiful ruler of the universe. We are not some tin-pot republic we are the Lord’s temple.
It seems to me that we Christians in the UK are far too complacent about the loss of our buildings. When a church has ceased to function in a building the normal recourse is to dispose of the premises on the open market. Such an event leads to the accrual of certain funds. This can lead us to being happy that we are being faithful servants of the Lord in the dispersing of funds for gospel purposes.
I am not saying that this approach is to be rejected. It may be the appropriate course of action. Such situation would be, for example, where an area has been depopulated and there are little or few people in an area. Also it may well be an application of the principle that our Lord set for his disciples that if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town (Matt. 10:14).
However, I still would want to make two strand assertions on this subject:
- The loss of a building generally equals the loss of a testimony for our Lord in an area. In the losing of the building there is a losing of a place where the gospel of our Lord Jesus is honoured and declared. Accordingly, we have to ponder upon whether we have lost our gospel vision to make sure that many can still have opportunity to hear the gospel. This loss is compounded in its significance and poignancy when false religions take them over to propagate lies.
- Many churches normally meet in public buildings such as schools and village halls. There are many good reasons why this is a sound approach to existing and living as a church. However, we need to get real and realise that this cannot be a situation that continues indefinitely. The fact that the biblical perspective on homosexuality and transgenderism is so at odds with that of the present zeitgeist in our country means that the doors to public buildings will metaphorically and literally soon be closing. When this happens will we be woken up and wonder why we did not take more action to keep church buildings within the church.
I urge some thinking on this issue.
To a greater or lesser extent all of us come to junctures in our lives when we have to take on responsibility. That may be in the family, in the workplace, in the community, in the church or wherever. Alas, many of us drift into these situation with little thought or preparation.
Joshua was faced with taking on responsibility as leaders of the nation of Israel. Moses, in Deuteronomy 31:7-13 being aware of this focuses on toe things which will be necessary for Him to have if He is to effectively carry out his responsibility.
The Right Attitude. Joshua is called to Be strong and courageous (v7b). With responsibility come challenges, struggles, opposition and difficulties. If we do not set ourselves to persevere through these then we will soon go the way of the snowflake in a heatwave. We will soon disappear from the scene of our responsibility. We may still have the office thereof, but we will cease to function effectively.
So we need those of courage in all different realms. Elders of churches need to be displayers of this.
The Right Dependence. We are not just to be those of courage in a stoic kind of way. We are those of courage because we have a God who we can depend upon in all the struggles of life. Moses tells Joshua It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (v8). Such a God is worthy of our trust. To survive and prosper in any position of responsibility we need to trust in Him.
The Right Guide. Having commissioned Joshua, Moses in vv9-13 delivers the Word of the Lord to the priests and the elders of Israel. They are to have custody of the law and make sure it is read every seven years. Implicit in this is that all the people including Joshua will have the Word of God to guide them. Jesus must lead according to the Word that all the people know. Otherwise His leadership will be of no account and should be rejected.
So fellow leaders, have courage, depend on the Lord and follow His Word. Then you will be a blessing in your sphere of responsibility.
The plan of God as it unfolds in the book of Acts and into the epistles is to have churches established and built-up. This is God’s agenda for this age. In one sense the church is His mission plan for this age. Churches are established and out of those churches other churches are established.
I have been pondering on this issue particularly as regards to the sending out of missionaries to other pasts of the world. The goal should always be for those sent out either to link with churches which are already in situ in the location where they go to, or if it is a completely spiritually barren area to establish new churches.
There is something wrong for people to be just loan rangers or loan groups operating independent of churches.
This also raises issues more close to home. To engage in evangelism is absolutely vital and we give thanks to the Lord for all mission agencies who are labouring for the Lord. But these should always be operating in connection with local churches.
The commission of our Lord is to go and make disciples. Disciples are formed in the context of a local church. A convert can be any where, but a disciple should always be in a church. Evangelism should always be about recruiting disciples.