Jump Start # 2948
Romans 16:1 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea”
A young couple sent a message to the shepherds of their congregation that they were leaving. They were not upset with anyone. There was no apparent problems. They wanted a different place to worship. People move around and about. Some are looking for something and until they find what it is, they are hard to be content. Getting people to “stick” and “stay” in a congregation has always been a concern. In some places, as many come in the front doors, that many goes out the back doors. The church directory is constantly changing.
Here are some thoughts:
First, each congregation carries it’s own culture and personality. Even though two congregations can be Biblically the same, there are different “feels” to each place. Some places are laid back. Blue jeans are more common than suits and starting on time doesn’t happen very often. Other places have a different feel. Like a well oiled machine, everything clips along perfectly. The place is tidy and in order. It carries the atmosphere of excellence. Doing your best is in their DNA. Which one is better? Which one can you be a part of? Which one can you help and which one will help you? Which one will do you the most good? Only you can decide that.
Second, some can leave and hardly anyone will notice. It’s not that the fellowship is weak, it’s that some have made very few connections. Some rarely come. Some are out the door as quick as they can. Some do not stick around to visit. Some never come to Bible classes. Some never teach. Some never volunteer. Some never go to the showers or the weddings. Some never come to the get togethers. Some never come to the Gospel Meetings. Their name is in the directory, but people would be hard pressed to know much about them. There are few tears when they leave because they never allowed people to know them.
This is just the opposite of our passage today. Phoebe was commendable. For that to happen, someone has to be on the front lines of serving, helping and connecting. Paul defined her as “a servant of the church.” Now some get real worked up about wanting to call her a “deaconess.” They want to park their cars here and find leadership roles that just didn’t happen in the early church. Not every servant was a deacon. Jesus was a servant. But Jesus wouldn’t fit the qualifications listed in Timothy. Jesus was never married. Jesus had no children. Jesus was not appointed by a church. Phoebe, like dozens and dozens of godly women I have known through the years, did what she could. She didn’t need a title. All she looked for was something to do. She served. On in Romans 16, we find Mary who worked hard. Other women follow in Paul’s list. Here are godly brethren who served. They left footprints for others to follow. They did what they could. How sad that some can worship with a congregation for decades and no one can name one thing that they have added to help the church. Not one thing!
Not everyone has to serve publically. Not everyone has to teach. But all of us can connect. All of us can show hospitality. All of us can make a difference. Be the one who sends cards. Be the one who pulls the weeds. Be the one who opens the doors. Be the one who compliments. Be the one who is generous. Be the one who is a friend to the young and a helper to the old. Be the one who invites. Be the one who shares good things on social media.
Recently, I have been looking through the records of old, old congregations. Names and names and names. I wonder how many were like Phoebe. I wonder how many were like the young couple who left to find something else. And, what about us? Are we doing anything worthwhile other than showing up on Sunday?
Third, some folks like to find a congregation where they can come and go as they please and little or no accountability is found. No one is going to ask them about their attendance. No one is going to require anything from them. No one is going to bother them. This way, they can be very distant from everyone. Some like it that way. Some like Jesus that way. When they need the church or the Lord, they’ll call someone, but most times, just leave us alone. And, in such cases, fellowship is meaningless. And, when there is a real crisis, other than family, they will have little or no support. And it is at those times that they will angrily accuse the church of not being there. Hard to fault the church when the church doesn’t even know who they are. Fellowship is a two way street. The more open, available and close you become the greater the fellowship. Those who keep people at arm’s length only find the church to be “those people,” and not one of “our people.”
Fourth, is it wrong to switch congregations? No. But make sure what you are leaving and what you are looking for is not something that could be found within yourself. Some congregations have few children and a family may want to find other children like they have. That’s understandable. Some congregations do not have shepherds and some might want that. Some gauge a congregation based upon size. “I like a small church,” some say. A small church is going to need you to step up and help them. Others fear that you get lost in a large church. Some will go so far as declaring that a congregation is getting “too large.” That’s funny. No one says that when we read Acts 2. Later on in Acts, there were 5,000 more added. A large church has just as many opportunities and even more so than a small congregation. Don’t let the size be the basis of where you attend. One must see if they can grow, serve and be helped in a congregation. There is no need to stay if you are dying spiritually. There is no need to jump ship every time a congregation runs through some rough waters.
And, just what could a young couple do? I know some that are team teaching Bible classes. I know of an engaged couple that took a visiting preacher out for dinner. I know of some that are busy helping the widows in the congregation. I know of some who are active in having a neighborhood Bible study. I know some that take meals to those who have had surgeries. What can they do? They can serve. They can be active. They can make their presence known by the good that they do.
Find a place. Settle in. Get busy. Get to know the people. Find where you can serve. Find where you can grow. Practice hospitality. Make a difference. Whether you are with a congregation for months or decades, be the type of person that has made a positive impact.