Text of today’s message from Melvin Gaines:
The body of Jesus Christ has many moving parts…in the same way; a church also has many moving parts. The movement of these parts consists of its people, which are church members or its attendees. It is the church’s community that makes up this local body, and it regularly adds or subtracts people over time.
The people who come and go within the church is a mirror of life itself, and change may be either welcome or unsettling to us. Change is also inevitable. It seems that as soon as you get settled in to a routine, something happens to change it. Our greatest challenge in these changes is how we respond to them.
Change is less apparent in a larger church, but in smaller churches (like ours), it is impossible not to notice when they occur, especially if the people involved are very active within the church’s ministry. When a person or a group of people leaves a small church, there is an obvious hole in that church’s ministry that needs to be filled. What we need to understand about these situations are some key elements that often are centered on the attitudes of the people who remain in the church:
1.) A key member’s departure may be an initial distraction, but it is not an unmitigated disaster. Things are not going to fall apart…it’s a time to find solutions.
2.) When someone leaves the church, the new opening brings about a new opportunity (more about this word later).
3.) Every church member is important, but not irreplaceable.
4.) The change and the resulting ministry is mysterious to us, but not for God. For Him, it is all in a day’s work.
When a member leaves a church, the change will move people to start asking questions about what will happen next. The answers are often as simple as looking at not what others can do, but, in fact, starting with yourself.
It begins with self-inspection and evaluation of your relationship with Jesus Christ. It begins with a sincere look at Him and where He should be in your life.
36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Without love, you will be unable to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ or with anyone else. Love is paramount and a necessity. Your love for Jesus Christ creates the environment and the desire to please Him with an obedient heart–first in following His Word and His precepts, and then in carrying out His Word in service for others.
…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
When a person leaves the church, your focus on what Jesus Christ will have you to do promotes the following positive responses:
1.) Your fellowship with Christ takes the emphasis off the other person’s departure (with the appropriate conclusion that God is well aware of the change).
2.) You are readily seeking God as to where you fit in this change. Your prayers and petitions to Him will help you to see where your service is needed (Remember–it is not necessarily about replacing the other person who left, but it very well could mean filling in at a different area where you can be of service. There should be an inherent trust that God will put in place the right person in the right place at the right time).
Our humanity makes this far from a perfect process, but we trust that the perfection of the process will be in God’s involvement. God allows the freedom of movement of His people from place to place within the body of Christ. It becomes an imperfect process when people are not seeking God wholeheartedly in this area or when their “personal pride” gets in the way.
1 John 2:16
For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.
This is why everything that we do in seeking the Lord’s will involves an ongoing process of humbling ourselves before Him and being more sensitive to the words of the Holy Spirit speaking to us. It all started with Jesus Christ dying for each and every one of us, and by living our lives in acknowledgment of what He did for us.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. 14 For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
In business, the problems of the day are looked at as opportunities to get better or to right the wrong that has occurred. In the same way, a big change within a church can be looked at as either a problem or as an opportunity. This is an attitude check, for sure. Your positive approach in this matter will define the direction that you decide to take. In reality, there are always going to be opportunities, and that’s because God is the author of these opportunities as a way to challenge us to action (Hebrews 12:2)! So, with all of this in mind, each of us needs to rely less upon the circumstances of a person or group of people leaving a church, and rely more upon how God is challenging you to respond within this “opportunity.” Let’s not dwell upon what you cannot do, or what the church can’t do–instead put your focus on what you can do. If you’re doing this, what the church can do will take care of itself.
Is there something that you can do for Jesus Christ and the church that you’re not already doing? Is there a place where you can expand upon your skills and abilities beyond what you are naturally accustomed to? According to Scripture, each of us has been given a gift of some sort. Let’s start there…are you using it?
1 Peter 4:10
Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.
If each of us is in tune with the Holy Spirit and truly seeking Him, we would be very sensitive to His call to us to serve Him. We already have the talents and abilities that we are born with, and we now also have the spiritual gifts that he gives us once we are born again. We have amazing power and ability through the enabling of Jesus Christ!
1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
1 Corinthians 12:4-14
4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:
8 to one is given a message of wisdom
through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge
by the same Spirit,
9 to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.
11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.
12 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 So the body is not one part but many.
Knowing that we have the talents and gifts does not guarantee that we will use them. Why? Because in our own selfishness, self-focus or self-righteousness, we can waste them by not using them. This is even detrimental within the body when we lack confidence in who we are and what we can do (out of fear of reprisal or condemnation). We must have a greater focus on what the Lord Jesus Christ thinks of us and rely upon His strength instead of our own strength.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
6 think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
As simple as this verse is, it is also the hardest thing for many people to do, for in this acknowledgment is the evidence of one’s success or failure in his or her active participation in the body of Christ.
It is up to each one of us to be aware of our talents and gifts and actively participate in the use of them within the body. Our active participation of our talents and gifts is the true unity in the body that is referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. The evidence of our faith is in our action and in our activity within the body, and not just sitting around waiting for someone else to do something.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.
Your attitude in this change will go a long way in listening to how God is speaking to you in this transition. Do you hear God’s calling to you? Do you know what He would have you to do right now? Are you praying for wisdom and guidance in this situation?
7 “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.
As you seek God in this matter and in your obedience to His Word and to His will, He will give you insight into what you are to do next. You are always seeking Him in finding out what you are to be doing, and, just as importantly, doing what you are doing now even better than before. You are always seeking Him in your growth and improvement. You will grow as you continue to grow your love relationship in Jesus Christ. It begins then and there. As you abide in Jesus Christ, He will give you answers to your questions and everything that you need to serve Him as He has promised He would.
9 “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 17 This is what I command you: Love one another.
Your service for Him in the church and in the body will show the love that you have for Him as He has for you. It is this love that builds up the body and even wins people over personally for Jesus Christ who do not know Him.
When change occurs in the church, are you calling for someone else to step up to the challenge, or are you calling on Jesus Christ for wisdom and answers? Are you listening to your own desires to play it close to the vest, or are you listening to God’s call to you? He is readily calling on each of you to take action as an active member of the body. Listen to Him carefully in faith and respond to His call, and He will give you the desire and the direction you will need to be of service for Him.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.