People leave their churches for any number of reasons. Some of them are childish: I didn’t get my way, she offended me, pastor ignored me, elder asked me to change, ushers too directive, carpet’s the wrong color . . . on and on the list goes.
Such thinking must be challenged. That’s where pastors and elders do some of their best work. One of their core jobs is to challenge the thinking of people who have unbiblical, immature or sinful understandings of the purpose of the church and their role in it. They need to understand that they should strengthen the church to help it honor the Lord by making, baptizing and teaching disciples of Jesus Christ. Pastors and elders need to pass people’s words through the grid of the Scriptures to discern whether the thoughts are biblical or unbiblical or simply immature or sinful. They need to help each person think and act on the purpose of the church and the Lord’s desire for their participation in it. It’s part of the leaders’ job of protecting and nurturing the church.
Many think the church is about them. They think it’s about them being pleased by everything the church offers and taking whatever the church offers. If a person isn’t serving to strengthen the church, then he needs to start doing that or he needs to go to a church where he will do that. In 1 Corinthians 14:12 and Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul urges followers of Christ to excel at building up, or edifying, the church. The Lord doesn’t want his children to be forever babies, i.e. consumers, complainers, users and takers. There is time, of course, for baby believers to learn how to live the Christian life and to eventually serve the church. A believer in Christ needs to learn that the Lord wants us to excel at strengthening the church. That thought is so counter-cultural in many of today’s churches that it sounds stunning. It’s so counter-intuitive that it seems radically strange. Who thinks like this in today’s churches?
I know of an overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated pastor who endures an elder’s snide comments whenever the pastor takes a brief vacation. Maybe we need to cut your pay. Seems you have too much time on your hands. This pastor’s been on the job for seven years. And he’s tolerating an elder who is not excelling at strengthening the church. Sadly, the elder understands his authority and responsibility, but he likes to exercise it by beating down the pastor and making him miserable. What an accomplishment on his spiritual resume’.
Teach your people—elders too if they don’t know it—a radical old concept: Use your spiritual gift to excel at building the church. That would be excellent.