Our current series, Nehemiah::Rebuilding, has challenged me on several levels, particularly as a leader. Nehemiah is one of the greatest examples in history of courageous leadership, persistent prayer, and the perseverance that comes with God-given vision. If you're a leader - or have any desire to be - and you haven't read Nehemiah, don't waste another day! And while the leadership lessons are plentiful, there is something for everyone in this servant leader's journal and journey. We've talked much about the Enemy and his tactics against us. When we're living on mission - with a vision for our life, our family, our church, His Kingdom - Satan comes at us with his arsenal of weapons (discouragement, selfishness, pride - the list goes on), hoping to defeat us, knock us off course, or simply slightly deter us from the path of vision. This past week, as we talked about the dangers of being Sabotaged by Selfishness, I submitted an idea that's lingered on in conversation. I made the statement: If you claim to be a Christ-follower, but you aren't serving in the church, there is someone bearing a load that you should be carrying. For some - possibly many - this was probably a bit frustrating. Maybe even aggravating. And all I can say to that is, "I hope so!"
I'm not sure when it started - the spread of the disease we refer to as Consumerism - but it has wormed it's way into the hearts of many unknowing churchgoers. And yes, I meant to say "churchgoer"! To start with, you see in Nehemiah 5 what happens when part of the Body (and they were leaders, at that) never get past a "What's in it for me?" mentality. It breeds bitterness, resentment, and division. People grow weary from bearing all the burden. I'm sure Paul had great knowledge of this story as he was writing to the Corinthians and exhorting them "that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another." We are ALL bearing and carrying the load together - serving one another. No exemptions.
This morning in my time in the Word, Paul further exposes this Christ-like character and motive. He writes to the Romans (1:11-12) and shares with them, "I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." Mutual encouragement. Agreement in word and deed. Standing together. Or as he puts it in his letter to the Philippians, "fighting together, side by side, for the sake of the Gospel." This is a microscopic taste of the consuming principle and mandate throughout scripture of what the church - the Body of Christ - should look like. And it leaves me wondering how anyone - ANYONE - could claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and still walk into "church" week after week ignorantly and blindly wondering, "I wonder what I'm going to get out of this today?" Sadly, I think the answer to that question is answered by the fruit it seems to be producing: NOTHING! What you're going to GET out of this is what you're GIVING: NOTHING! How is this disease so rampant?
I also made a statement that raised a few eyebrows and (I think) even woke a few people up from their slumber. In relationship to this spectator mentality, I made the comment: "It seems that many people love the worship, but they don't care much about the work." What breaks my heart is knowing that there are so many who not only refuse to be filled so that they can be poured out, but that they don't realize the water has gone stagnant, stale, and is on the verge of becoming toxic. If water sits long enough...bad things happen. But remember, you're the jar - you're the cup. If the water goes stale - if the heart grows hard - YOU are the one who's going to suffer the most. Don't be sabotaged by selfishness! ACT NOW!
If you're a Christ-follower, you are called to serve. Inside the church and outside. You are called to be "broken bread and poured out wine". When we come to know Christ - when the Spirit of the Living God invades our hearts - He graces us with spiritual gifts. Yes, GIFTS! But the crazy thing about these gifts is that they aren't intended for our own benefit, but the benefit of others. They're not yours to just sit on, ignore, or neglect. You've been given a gift that you're required to give away. Are you giving it away? Better yet, do you even know HOW you've been gifted? Let's start there. If you've never taken a Spiritual Gifts Inventory, here's a great one to get you started: CHURCH GROWTH SPIRITUAL GIFTS INVENTORY
If you take this test and don't have any clue what to do with it, go see one of your pastors. If you're a member of The Brook, bring it to the Volunteer Center and allow them to help you take your gift(s) and see them come to life. You will be blessed - possibly even freaked out - by what the Lord will do in you and through you as you begin to serve others for the sake of the Kingdom.
To listen to this past week's message, Sabotaged by Selfishness, go HERE.
Want to dig deeper? Dig in!
1 Corinthians 12
Hebrews 5:11-6:1, 10:24-25