An ode to the faithful layman.

“We need more young men called to preach!”

I cannot tell you how many sermons I have sat through that talk of this need for preachers. Don’t get me wrong, we do need to train young guys to shepherd the flock of God. I have the privilege to live a short distance from a school that does just that. Through the past 20 years, I have seen many preacher-boys come in and out of our church doors.

There are times where I would love nothing more than to pull those guys aside to share another needful and oft neglected ministry. It’s a role that is rarely spoken of, but critical to the church body.

It requires no special degree. It is often thankless, hard work, steeped in prayer. The only qualifications are a heart and life that desires to serve out of love for Christ and His bride, the Church.

It is the faithful church member.

We don’t talk about him/her enough. We don’t point out the critical asset that they are to ministry. I have rarely heard them mentioned at all.

Not that we do what we do for accolades. I’d rather wait till glory for mine. But we must encourage the generations to come to be not only “plugged in” to a body of believers, but to be investing in them as well.

Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

There’s a not so secret secret that churches fail to realize: the Pastor and his family cannot do it all. Nor are they supposed to.

Acts 6 tells us about how the Church had a problem: the widows were not all cared for fairly. It wasn’t out of malicious intent, but the church leaders had their hands full. Think about it. Thousands of people being converted in one sermon? That’s a lot of follow up and discipleship! Add caring for the fatherless and the widows, not to mention dealing with any doctrinal error or sin issues… it was understandable that something was slipping.

So the apostles called out seven men to be deacons. They weren’t called to preach (though they could), but their job was to serve the congregation. It was- and still is- a bonafide ministry.

I see examples all over the scriptures of people who were striving for faithfulness in daily life and extending that to service for God. Paul was constantly giving “shout outs” to his co-laborers in his letters, namely because he was so thankful for their dedication to the work. Not all of them were pastors. Women were not exempt from these praises.

We need laborers in all forms. The Sunday school teacher. The door greeter. The cleaner. The voice in the choir. The treasurer. The groundskeeper. The pianist. The bus driver. The nursery worker. The person who is present. The list is endless.

Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

There are far too few people committed to church ministry outside of a pastorate. The unverified but oft referred to statistic is 10% of the church body does 90% of the work. The faithful laymen are often casualties to the same burn-out that pastors experience.

People leave churches often carrying this excuse, “There is not enough here for us.” Programs. Same aged people. Classes. Outreach. And sadly, the things they believe are lacking can be areas where they could do the serving. The unromantic adage is still true: If you see something that needs to be done, you are probably the best one to do it.

We want all the things, but we don’t want to be the ones doing the actual work. It really is disobedience, because just as each member of the body serves a functional purpose, each member of a church has a functional job as well. When we join a body of believers, we are to joyfully find our function in that body.

And you, mama, wife, single gal, grandma, and all y’all’s (having a southern husband gives me double the pronoun power): we are not exempt. We are not to sit on the sidelines because of our kids, our jobs, our school schedule, our ailments… there is something we all can devote ourselves to for the sake of Christ’s church.

So yes- the church needs good Pastors who are faithful to the Word and gently lead the flock- but the church also needs an army of faithful men and women who are committed to their local body of believers. Desperately.

Being a Ministry Mama

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Sometimes, as I look at women around me, I covet. I see the strong, confident, trim mom on Shark Tank promoting her product that is already successful and yet helps the poor. I see my neighbor, teaching special needs children during the day and taking college courses at night, all while raising her kids. I see the friend, in a similar situation to me, seemingly together and able to help others take care of their children.

I sit here and struggle to have a cup of coffee in the morning.

And I wonder, “What is my purpose, other than raising kids?”

Motherhood is a calling and an important one. But it isn’t the only calling women have. I believe that when we focus all our energy on our kids and leave nothing for serving others and God Himself, we set a bad example. Not only that, we neglect another level to our relationship with Christ.

When I start into this coveting, I remember the things that God has put in my path. The funny thing about coveting is that it gives us amnesia to the good things that are often right in front of our faces. That’s why reminding and remembering are so important.

I teach. I love teaching God’s Word to older children. It’s a gift that God gave me and I am so thankful He did.

But sometimes I diminish in my mind the role I play. I think, “Well, that is only for church… I need to do something BIGGER than church.”

I forget that the church is the vehicle Christ uses to edify the believer. It is an important ministry. It is often neglected or abused. The church is important, if for no other reason than that Christ says it is important. He doesn’t institute useless things.

So every Wednesday, I come to church and these girls come. Sometimes I only have four in my class. Other times it might be twelve. My friends and I take turns teaching them the truth of the Gospel. Some get saved. Others are still thinking about it. But relationships blossom in this place.

These girls are not all “churched”. I love it. They are honest and real and they remind me to be sure that the things I do have a good reason and not just a rote answer. They want to know why I am telling them something contrary to their school learning or what their priest says. I get to point them to the Bible.

These girls come from different home situations. Some have a great family. Others have no dad, either through death, divorce or imprisonment. Many… too many… are just left to themselves with no one who really cares.

I get to be the one who cares. Our time together is not just Bible for an hour and a half. We listen to their stories, their concerns. The things that no one listens to them about. We give them a safe, caring place to be. We do our best to show them the love of Jesus.

We think ministering to kids needs to be loud and flashy, with lots of entertainment and little substance. I disagree. It’s really about getting down to their level (genuinely, not condescendingly) and showing them love and being honest with them. It can be messy, and you won’t get through to all of them. But in the end, it is hard to argue with the love of Jesus.

My ministry in the local church isn’t BIG. It ain’t fancy. But God is working to bring these precious ones to Himself.

So while I look at the “Super Moms” who are being successful and doing big things in the world, I just have to stop and remember not to diminish my own gifts and my own calling. Even the mighty oak starts out as a seed.

Monday in a Sunday Home

I’m gonna say what every church-going mom is thinking: Mondays are hard when you have kids and are faithful in church on Sundays. It is the one day that messes up routines. And if you are like us, we have church Sunday nights as well. (I’m not writing to discuss the merits/detriments of having Sunday night services in the post. Thanks.)

There is a saving grace in this Monday-ness: we homeschool. So I let the kids sleep in on Mondays. It is 10:30 and some are just starting school. The beauty of flexibility in a homeschool family.

But it is difficult just the same. I’m not whining, just stating fact.

Why? Why bother with taking kids to church on Sunday nights if it messes with their schedules so and makes my life a little more difficult?

God is worth it.

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He’s worth disrupting my agenda, my schedule, my plans. Not just once a week, but every day. I want my kids to know this truth. Putting the things that God thinks are important in an important place in my own life is the right priority.

You know what else is worth it? Being with other believers.

Sharpening, learning, fellowshipping, serving, edifying. These things are worth doing and receiving. I want my kids to know that relationships with church family are important. Sure, these friendships take place in other venues too, but there is something special about worshiping together on the day that our Savior conquered death.

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It’s worth it.

We can become very child-oriented as parents. I am guilty as much as the next person. And of course, we ought to be in some respects. But if we embrace the fact that we are raising children that will someday become adults, we need to model for them right priorities.

Sometimes those right priorities are terribly inconvenient to naptime. Or meal time. Or play time. (Ask my boy about this.) Or soccer games. Or Masterpiece Theater. (I’m a nerd and I accept that about myself.)

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When we cater to our kids in this area, we are intrinsically telling them that they are the more important than God. (Or naptime, meal time, play time, Nascar, soccer, Poirot…) In turn they will think that they are more important than God. In turn they will see no use for church at all.

They need to know that there are things more important. In Hebrews, the author is encouraging believers not to abandon their faith amidst difficulty and persecution; that their faith is precious. And then He says this,

“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day is dawning.” ~Hebrews 10:24-25

As the world draws closer to the return of Christ, we are to gather more often. Not less. This isn’t limited to Sundays. And it is something we should desire. To meet together and stir each other up. If we cherish this time and deem it important, even worth adjusting our normal lives for, then our kids will understand that it is a big deal.

Living in world that is all about convenience, we believe we can always have our cake and eat it too. But we just can’t. It is called sacrifice. Am I willing to sacrifice my schedule and my priorities to meet with God’s people?

Sacrifice is something that isn’t popular, but it is so important to teach our kids. Denying ourselves of a desire for a greater good. I desire peace and a good start to my week. I sacrifice that so we can spend time in a “family reunion” of sorts every week.

It’s worth it.

And yes, I will need reminders that Sundays are worth messy Mondays. As I sit in pajamas, smelling burned eggs and arguing about the merits of toothbrushing, I will remind myself that the time spent with fellow believers yesterday is worth any stress that today dishes out.

The Best Laid Plans

Christmas can be hectic. Especially for my family. There is program planning, tons of parties, practices, plowing and whatnot that we get lost in the shuffle often and are not able to relax at all during the holiday season. This one has not been an exception either…. up until now, that is.

Our Christmas Cantata this year was going to be special. Stephen and I wanted to do something different. We wanted something that would really capture the true spirit of this season. We wanted the cantata to be the fruits of a deeper reflection on what Christ’s birth means. We wanted to help our church become more of a family.

So, I planned. I delegated. Tables were set. Chairs were brought in. Sign up sheets were filled to capacity. This year’s cantata was going to be a full house. Help was assigned. The sound system was set up. Everything was ready to go. We were prepared to share the good news of Christ’s birth.

Then it happened.

It snowed. No, it didn’t just snow… we had blizzard warnings. On Sunday. That meant half the choir was gone. Half the orchestra was unable to come. Most of our church family and their guests could not make it in such conditions. We had nada. And it was a gift.

Proverbs tells us that we can make plans, but their fruition is only of the Lord. And despite our plans, which were vast, the Lord decided to bring snow instead. In that snow, He brought a lesson: slow down.

In Psalm 46:10, God command us, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

As I have thought on this verse and others, the thought has occurred that this season is meant for celebration, yes. But does it have to be so full that we don’t have time for reflection too? Christ was born in a barn, in a very humble place. While I am sure there was some noise from animals and all, it didn’t have the same fanfare as would have been had he been born in the palace in Jerusalem. God’s intention was a quiet, humble birth. So, do we necessarily need a noisy celebration? The answer I come to as I dwell on Scripture is: not always.

We think worth comes through fanfare and noise. I think God is most glorified through humility and quiet.

As far as our evangelistic outreach goes, I think God gave us a good reminder with the snow storm: He doesn’t need us for His Word to go forth. Don’t get me wrong, He wants to use us to bring people to Himself. We are part of His plan. But He can do it without our gimmicks. He just wants people with willing hearts. And He can save people despite what we do or do not do.

Back to Sunday now. Stephen had to plow in the morning, but he was able to spend the rest of the day with his family. Right now, that is a luxury in this house. We stayed in our pajamas, had a wonderful meal, played, laughed, snuggled, wrestled, napped… it was great. It was restful. It was a gift from the Lord, truly. A day of rest to prepare for the rest of the holiday season.

Have you been so busy that you haven’t had time to reflect? Has your family been pushed to the side a little because of all your plans for celebrating Christ’s birth? I found a website for busy moms, and in it she has a Christmas challenge to focus our hearts and minds back on Christ. It involves rest and slowing things down. Check it out if you get a chance.

That’s all for now.

The sickies have been fighting us from almost every angle lately. It has been an exhausting battle, and some days I honestly did not know how I would survive. God’s grace saved the day, as it always does. He is truly faithful and Someone to be wholly trusted in every situation. Now if only I could be as faithful to Him as He is to me. Even a sliver.

Maybe you have sensed it lately in your congregation, family, or sphere of influence. Tiredness. Lack of motivation. Inconsistency. Apathy. Wrong priorities. I know that I am not the only one. And I am convinced that the “adversary” is loving it and trying to breed it. Personal defeat is a great enemy in the local church.

We tend to run on how we are feeling. “I feel like doing this. ” “I don’t feel like doing that.” “I’m not up to work in nursery today.” “My heart is just not into singing for choir this morning.” Forget faithfulness. Forget falling before our ever-present God and telling Him all about it. Forget enduring hardness as a good soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes we need to do the Lord’s work regardless of how we feel. Actually, in doing the Lord’s work, we can often find the refreshment we need, or the remedy for what is ailing us.

“But isn’t hypocritical to be singing about joy when I am not joyful?” The solution is not to give up. The solution is to have a heart change. When you just resign to the emotion of the day, Satan and your flesh win that battle. We have it backwards when we decide that we should duck out of ministry because of our attitude. Our attitude needs to change – not our ministry.

Sometimes, an honest break is needed. Rest and vacation are not evil words. Refreshment is necessary to gain the energy we need for the battle at hand. I am talking in a physical way, but also a spiritual way as well. We usually focus on physical rest. More is to be gained from a spiritual vacation too though. A spiritual vacation, to me, is an extensive amount of time spent in God’s Word and prayer. This is not your normal devotions. It is more than that. Hours or days could be spent on it. The Bible itself tells us that it is nourishing and refreshing to the soul. Are you in need of extra time with God? Are you spending time with Him as it is?

I guess what I am trying to get at here is this: God is ever faithful to us – are you being ever faithful to Him?

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