In his inaugural address after being elected president of the United States in 1960, John F. Kennedy, as a call for public action to better the country, spoke the famous words; ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. He was calling the people to serve their country rather than sit back and allow their country to serve them.
There are a variety of different people who attend churches even in the Greater Moncton and elsewhere. The churches consist of people from different backgrounds, with different careers and with all sorts of different life situations. Some are young in the faith while others have grown in spiritual maturity in living out the word of God. While there is a sundry display of individuals who attend their local congregation, the church is the gathering of a kingdom people who serve one Master and hence should be unified by this service. While there is a versatile assembly of people, there is also a vast array of different views.
I was asked recently on my opinion on the state of the churches in the Greater Moncton Area. This is a very difficult question to answer seeing that I have not visited all the churches in this vicinity. While I’m sure there are others who could write a better post from their experience, I thought I could at least comment based upon my conversations with Christians who have attended these congregations, many of whom I trust their judgment and whom I share their point of views on many other matters. The general consensus of these individuals is that the churches in Moncton have grown either apathetic or they have become a show. There are a number of reasons cited as the cause of this indifference. There seems to be this discouragement in smaller churches due to the fact that they view the limited numbers as a church that isn’t progressing. Those churches that are larger in numbers seem to have less of a personal and community feel to them and generally create “cliques” among its members. I would like to address at least one of the issues that seems to be a plague upon Moncton’s Local Congregations mainly stemming from President Kennedy’s famous quote.
One thing that the larger and smaller congregations tend to both have in common is that only a small percentage of the congregants participate in the growth of the church. I once heard someone say that 20% of the congregants do 80% of the work. This, in of itself, is not healthy for both the church and the congregants lacking in a churchly work ethic. Some feel that giving their lump sum every week to the work and showing up is enough. This is the secular idea that money somehow can satisfy the duty they are required to uphold (don’t we too often see this in politics?). There are many Christians who are notorious in the “pay to get it done” approach of Christianity. I’m not saying it’s wrong to give money by any stretch of the imagination but it’s important to realize that it isn’t the only way to give.
The Lord Jesus explicitly mentions in Matthew 20 that He Himself didn’t come to the earth to be served but that, as a ransom for the sin of man, He came to serve others . Matthew 25, in this passage on the coming judgment, the Lord Jesus speaks of caring for others who are in need. What I would like you, my reader, to take note of is that they serve and this states nothing about them being served. The Lord Jesus also, in teaching the disciples, washed their feet as a means of demonstrating that they were to serve others (John 13:5-16). Yet again, we have an example of serving others and not sitting back with the expectation of getting a pedicure and having your feet soaked in salted water.
The point I want to drive home in this small post is that to serve in the church and avoid apathy is the only means by which a church and its congregants will grow. It is tremendously unhealthy for a Christian not to serve the body of Christ within the local congregation. We were all given gifts and to hold back from using them is what brings us to apathy. The size of the church is not the issue even though I personally feel the expression of Christian service within the local church is far more satisfying in a smaller congregation than in a larger setting. Spurgeon would encourage those in his church to serve in smaller congregations if they wanted to serve more efficiently. Christians that don’t feel they have a purpose in the local assembly will dwindle away and become indifferent. They will sit back and merely wait to be served! A servant must work and feel satisfied in this work to experience the joy of serving the Lord. The church is also the benefactor of vibrant workmen who serve as a body. There are numerous items to tend to within a local congregation and without each of these items being satisfied, the church will be missing a vital part in its ability to witness to the world. The witness of the church is not the building within a community but its people meeting the needs of its growth in love and service.
There is one final point that requires a mention and that is of church leadership. Leaders (plural) are sometimes the culprit in this apathetic atmosphere. There is a certain responsibility on their part to assure that individuals within the local congregation are using their gifts and serving within their capacities. It is important for the leadership to make sure that everyone is doing something especially when it comes to serving others and participating in the spread of the gospel and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Too many are left in their apathy when the one thing that could lift them up is being asked to take on a responsibility within the local congregation.
The advice given by president Kennedy was a very biblical concept and it could very well be applied to our current state of affairs in regards to the churches today. I don’t want to give the impression that this article was written to put down people that serve perhaps to a lesser degree than others. There are all sorts of various levels of service within the church that is required. With all this said, there are those who are within the ranks of the churches that basically wouldn’t lift a finger should their lives depend on it. I believe we should examine ourselves as to how we are serving the body of Christ and not accept this apathetic church that seems to be plaguing our city.