Until June of last year, I spent my days (since graduation from college) in full-time ministry. I’ve served in a wide range of roles and capacities, from a Christian school teacher to a church worship leader. I’ll be sharing many insights and opinions in the future based on my 18 years of experience, and today I want to talk about getting the most out of your church experience.
I’m fully of the belief that life can only be experienced to the fullest if we surrender our selves to Jesus Christ. I’m also of the belief that it’s impossible for me to become the best I can be apart from being deeply involved in a local church, and by building real relationships with the people there.
Over the years I’ve met and talked to many people who have expressed a certain amount of disappointment with their church experiences. There are times when their disappointment is valid, but many times that disappointment stems from what I believe is a jaundiced perspective. In fact, I think there are some people in our modern culture who have their expectations regarding church turned completely backwards.
A Fully-Formed Spiritual Life
The core of the Christian life is every bit as incremental as the other aspects of life I discuss here at The Incremental Life. A spiritual life is one of progressive sanctification, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us so that we become more and more like Jesus Christ each day.
With that in mind, let me quote the apostle Paul as he spoke to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Paul was the epitome of striving to live a Christ-like life, and he had this to say near the end of his life. “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35 ESV)
Church is an area of life where we should focus more on giving than getting. We were never meant to just be attenders who show up for an hour on Sunday, sing some songs, listen to a sermon, and then head out to lunch. We were made for God’s good pleasure and made for a relationship with Him and others. We were meant to be filled with Christ so we can share all that He gives us with everyone we meet.
11 Ways to Get More Out of Church
- Be open to change. At the center of Christ’s work on the cross is the reality of radical change. If you’re a believer in Christ, somewhere along the way you were made to realize your deep need for Christ and the kind of life only He can offer. This life is one of change as we become less like who we were yesterday and more like Him. (Psalm 51:10)
- Be a servant. Walking into a church building should almost never be a selfish endeavor. Yes, we have needs and hurts of our own, but we should approach our time with fellow believers as an opportunity to serve Christ and others. How invested are you in your local church and in the community it reaches out to? How do you volunteer your time, talents, and skills? (Mark 10:45)
- Be gracious. When we’re more worried about getting something we want out of our church, we tend to be critical about how things at that church operate. This Sunday—(and every Sunday)—choose to not be critical about the music, or the way the pastor dresses, or the way someone lifts their hands, or whatever. Choose to be gracious, knowing that the church is filled with fallible people just like you. Better yet, see how you can get involved and serve! (John 13:35)
- Be a giver. There’s an old adage you may have heard before. “Show me someone’s bank account and I can tell you what they care about most.” Though we don’t like to admit it, there’s a great deal of truth to that sentiment. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Are you investing in your church? Not just an hour or two each Sunday, and maybe some extra time volunteering, but are you giving sacrificially monetarily to the work of ministry? (Matthew 6:21)
- Be engaged and be teachable. When it comes time for the sermon or any other Bible study time, how engaged are you? How engaged can you be? Challenge yourself and take notes during the sermon. Bring your Bible and read along, even if the pastor projects verses up on screens. (Acts 17:11)
- Be an encourager. Who can you encourage when you interact with your church family. Let me tell you something you may not realize. When you are friendly and an encouragement to your church staff, it’s a BIG deal. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Be a student. Take your notes from the sermon and Bible study time and spend some time studying them through the week. Become a theologian and learn how apply so that it changes how you think, act, and live. (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Be prepared. Read and pray regularly between Sundays, knowing that the sermon you hear on Sunday is not some spiritual vitamin meant to somehow get you through the week. Scripture was given to us by God to be woven into our lives and have an impact on every thought, act, and decision. Prepare yourself throughout the week for service on Sunday by applying the Word on the days in between. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
- Be humble. Approach the day with humility, realizing that no matter how long you’ve been a Christian, no matter how much Christ has changed you, no matter how much you know, you’ve still got an infinitely long journey ahead before you are made like Christ. Also remember that everyone around you is on the same road, and they might just be looking for a helping hand from you. (Colossians 3:12)
- Be a friend and a burden bearer. Work on building real relationships with others at your church. Depending on the size of the congregation, you may never get to know everyone, but you should start building real friendships and strong bonds with at least some of your fellow members. These are the people who will not only help you bear your burdens, but will also need you to come alongside them and support them through the ups and downs of life. (Galatians 6:2)
- Be committed. Once you’ve joined a church, make a real commitment to that church. Please don’t allow yourself to just be an attender, but be someone deeply involved in the manner described above. And when the going gets tough, stick it out and stand by your church family. (Hebrews 10:25)
Remember, church is not about us. It’s first and foremost about our relationship with Christ as we, like Paul, strive daily to become more like the Savior. It’s secondly about how we can love one another in many different capacities—from sharing the Gospel and building great relationships to feeding the poor and hungry and caring for widows and orphans.
As you head out to attend church this Sunday, my prayer is that you choose to do more than just attend. My hope is that you will become a fully-engaged member of a vibrant community of believers and contribute to make it even more vibrant.