Church is a place where Christians build each other up.
Some thoughts on getting involved after our formal time together.
“ …to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph 4:12-13; 15)
The Bible says that church is where Christians gather to hear God speak to us through the Bible. His purpose is to equip us all for building each other up in our faith in Christ in order to serve him in the world. Put like that, it changes the way we think about our Sunday meetings.
Each of us has a part to play in this by speaking the truth in love through the preaching, through our singing and in our conversations. Working as a team, coordinated by our church leadership, we can use our different abilities, experience and opportunities to build Dundonald Church. (The Bible calls this ‘edification.’) We are not, therefore, merely passengers on a bus, or consumers in a store. Nor is church just an event where we are entertained, or a club we attend for our enjoyment. Church should be more about serving others than serving ourselves.
These biblical principles shape our thinking here at Dundonald, for our life as a church in general and for our Sunday gatherings in particular. So here are some things to think about when it comes to making the most of Sundays in order to build others up in their faith and to be built up in Christ ourselves. They’re aspirations, not rules, so do what you can with them and don’t worry about the things you can’t always manage. We know it isn’t always easy, but as a church, we do want to lift our game. Here’s how we can make a start…
1. TALK ABOUT GOD’S WORD
Many of us are uncomfortable starting up ‘spiritual’ conversations. We shouldn’t be, but we are. If we get the ball rolling, however, others will pick it up. Asking “what did you think of the sermon?” is a good place to start. You can ask that of anyone, regardless of how long they’ve been at church or what they might think about the Christian faith. You can then add, “wasn’t that a great point about…” and the conversation flows from there. When something’s grabbed your heart it’s a good thing to share it!
This kind of conversation is very normal amongst Christians who have come to church to build each other up. We want to be about more than just coffee and polite conversation on Sundays. We want to ask about more than simply ‘how was your weekend?’ And talking about God’s word is a good place to start. Give it a go! Our conversations can be as much an opportunity for ‘Bible ministry’ as the sermon.
2. PRAY WITH OTHERS
Use the time after the service to meet people, ask about their concerns and pray with them. This may look a bit odd to newcomers at first – pairs of bowed heads all around the building – but they will know that we love each other, that we take the Christian life seriously and that we trust God’s providence. As a general rule, it’s usually a good idea to pray with someone and as a church it would be great to turn more of our conversations in to prayer each week. Why not try it?
To help with this we have a small Prayer Team at each service. The Prayer Team are available for 15 minutes after each service to chat and pray with those who would like to. This might simply be in response to an encouragement from the previous week or something in the sermon, or it may be about a particular issue for which prayer and counseling from one of the pastors would be appropriate.
3. ENGAGE WITH NEWCOMERS
Newcomers tend to leave fairly quickly so we need to move fast by identifying visitors and introducing ourselves to them immediately after the service ends. This is everyone’s responsibility. It’s about being intentional: make sure newcomers are welcomed properly by you and by your friends, and maybe introduce them to one of the staff. Ask them if there is any particular information they would find helpful to have (crèche, toddlers, Kids in the Warehouse, Pathfinders, CYFA, midweek groups, giving etc). Take them to the Welcome Stand where most of our literature is kept. You may have to postpone catching up with friends until after the newcomers have been cared for, but this is part of serving others.
4. ENCOURAGE BELIEVERS
If you can, hang around afterwards to encourage others, whether in deep conversation or just through being a good friend. Perhaps pray each week that God will direct you to one person for a conversation that will encourage them. Of course, we have busy lives and lots of responsibilities. And children only add to that. And of course there will be Sundays when we simply cannot hang around for long afterwards. But let’s try to be people who serve by hanging around for the good of others, rather than consumers who drift in late and slip off early – dipping in and out only when it suits us.
The more we grasp this, the more we’ll enjoy it, because the biggest encouragements in the Christian life usually come in the form of people – which means spending time together.
Ministry takes time. Serving others is costly.
But we’re one body, of many parts, working together to build the body of Christ! And if as a church we adopt these things as a pattern of loving and caring for each other in authentic Christian community, we will be engaged in the ministry that grows the church. For Paul wrote: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:11-13)
This paper is adapted and developed from selected excerpts taken from Colin Marshall ‘The Ministry of the Pew’ published in The Briefing #131, March 1994 by Matthias Media.