This post is a continuation of a prior post on commitment to the local church.
Commit to Serve in Your Local Church
The fourth commitment you should make when it comes to the local church is the commitment to serve the other members of your church. By serving one another we are simply following the example of Jesus himself who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is why the apostle Paul commands his churches: “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Paul also tells us that it is for the purpose of empowering us to serve one another that God has given each Christian spiritual gifts: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). While it is true that we should be willing to serve anyone with whom we come into contact, in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is specifically writing to the local church in Corinth and the implication of verses 4-7 is that the spiritual gifts God had given the believers in that church were to be used to serve one another. In other words, while the local church is not the only place we should serve using our spiritual gifts, it is the primary place we should serve using our spiritual gifts. Every disciple should ask themselves, how am I contributing to the health and mission of my local church through serving?
Commit to Give through Your Local Church
A fifth commitment that every Christian should make to their local church is the commitment to give through their local church. Giving through your local church is really just another way of serving the family of disciples that you are most responsible for serving. In the Old Testament, believers were expected to tithe (literally “give a tenth”) of all of their finances to the temple. This money would then be used to support the worship practices that took place in the temple, to support the priests whose full time job was to minister in the temple, and to help meet the needs of the needy among the covenant community. These needs still exist in the new covenant community, and so it is no surprise that the New Testament also emphasizes the need for believers to give financially. Christians are expected to give for two main reasons: (1) to support the church’s ministry and mission, and (2) to support the church’s poor and needy.
The expectation to support the church’s ministry and mission can be seen, for example, in Paul’s statement that “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). This means that pastors and missionaries should be supported financially, just like the priests in the Old Testament, so they can focus their time and energy on the ministry of the gospel. This is what Paul has in mind in 1 Timothy 5:17-18, when he says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” This means that a church should give financial support to its pastors, especially the pastors who do the majority of the preaching and teaching ministry. And since pastors are shepherds of particular local churches, the expectation is that the members of each local church should be the ones to support their pastors in this way. Beyond supporting the pastors, it is also important that each member give through their local church because of the practical needs that exist in a church if ministry is to take place (e.g., paying for a meeting place and its upkeep, providing supplies for various ministries, etc.).
The second expectation for giving (support for the church’s poor and needy) is seen in many places in the New Testament. For example, Acts 4:34-35 says that one of the reasons the members of the local church in Jerusalem gave was to take care of their own poor and needy church members: “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” This is what Paul has in mind in his discussion of the widows list in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 as well. Godly widows with no other source of support, could be “enrolled” (v. 9), and from then on they would be financially supported by their local church. In order for a local church to support needy church members in this way, its members must give financially through their local church. Are you giving financially through your local church so that the ministry and mission of your church can be supported and so that the poor and needy of your church can be taken care of?
Commit to Being a Peacemaker in Your Local Church
The sixth commitment you should make to your local church is the commitment to being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). God desires for his people to live in unity with one another and to avoid factions and divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10). But being this kind of church is not easy. Peace doesn’t just happen in a local church, peace must be made. Being a peacemaker means that you support the church’s leadership (Hebrews 13:17), that you show grace and a willingness to be slow to anger to fellow church members (James 1:19-20), and that you live selflessly in the family of God, caring for other people’s needs more than your own (Philippians 2:3-4). People who refuse to be peacemakers in the church, and instead choose to be troublemakers in the church are destroying the temple of God (i.e., the church). And people who destroy the temple of God are setting themselves up for God’s discipline. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you [plural] are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17). Are you working to make peace in your church?
Application & Setting Goals
How can a Christian discover his or her spiritual gifts? Using our spiritual gifts can be done through official volunteer roles (e.g., nursery) as well as in unofficial life-on-life contexts. Discuss how we can use our gifts to serve one another in both of these ways.
While it’s great to give to parachurch ministries, why should giving through your local church have the priority? What hinders people from giving through their local church? If you don’t currently give through your church, we challenge you to start this Sunday.
How can we proactively contribute to the peace and unity of our church and avoid divisions? Have you seen positive and negative examples of this in past churches?