What does your church do for people? Probably more than you’ve thought. Every Monday, scores of pastors are ready to walk away from ministry. It’s easy for us to forget how incredibly helpful the local church is in shaping and benefiting people’s lives. Let me encourage you about this for the next five minutes.
Last week I heard from a couple whose trajectory was completely changed by what they learned in New Song’s Financial Peace class. Today they have less debt, less tension, more hope, more discipline, and more skills to apply to so many areas of their lives. I walked away thinking, “We have hundreds of families who are out of debt or on their way. Offering Financial Peace may be the greatest favor our church has ever done for people.”
Then a saner thought came to me: Financial peace is FAR down the list of favors a church offers people! Without blinking, I thought of nine more valuable favors people regularly receive at our church and churches like ours:
1. We introduce people to Jesus.
People come to Christ in local churches in far greater numbers than anywhere else. Knowing Jesus is an eternity-changer. Peace, forgiveness, purpose, hope, and heaven come from him. Put those on one end of a scale and Financial Peace on the other and the tilt towards Jesus is overwhelming.
2. We teach people to read Scripture.
Learning to read the Bible is like learning another language. The most important one! Scripture is God’s native tongue. Without it, we know only what God says through natural revelation. It’s like visiting Mexico with five phrases of Spanish. Earth’s experiences are immeasurably richer when you know what God is saying to you.
3. We teach people to pray.
Reading the Bible lets you listen to God. Praying lets you talk to him. I’ve never done the survey, but I’ll bet if you talked to ten men on the street, eight of them would say they would rather have direct access to God’s ears for whatever was troubling them than a healthy bank statement.
4. We teach people to serve.
Jesus said he came not to be served, but to serve. So we teach people to approach others with a humble attitude and meet needs when possible. We teach people about spiritual gifts, and the rewards available in heaven to those who faithfully use their gifts to further God’s cause. Though it’s counter-intuitive, service reaps invaluable benefits in the character of the servant. That’s quite a favor!
5. We teach people to share their faith.
Not only does evangelism introduce others to Jesus, in Philemon 6, Paul points out that our understanding of God’s goodness is expanded when we share our faith. It’s a perspective-changer that’s priceless.
6. We teach people to give.
Giving opens people to otherwise unattainable spiritual and material blessings. It breaks the hold of greed and it opens the floodgates of heaven. Imagine how shallow your life would be if you didn’t know how to give?
7. We welcome people into an extended family.
A few weeks after New Song went public, people began saying, “You know, I have lived in this area for nine years and never knew anyone. Now when I go to the grocery store, I’m starting to see new friends I know from church. I finally feel like I’m at home in this community.” Good churches are like good families. The have older aunts and uncles who wrap their arms around the hurting and counsel those in need. Small group members become brothers and sisters. Peers provide babysitting. Singles get invited to homes for the holidays. What price tag would you put on that?
8. We build values into their children.
Fifty-two weekends a year, while adults are learning about Scripture, prayer, serving and giving, their children are learning lessons about faith and honesty and courage. As a young dad, if I could have only asked for one favor, it would have been that somebody would help me raise great children. The church does this better than any other institution in the world.
9. We strengthen marriages.
For most married couples, the spousal relationship is both their greatest joy and challenge. I’ve heard dozens of people say they would pay any price for a good marriage. Churches provide classes and counseling, encouragement and exhortation, practical teaching and principled reasoning on how couples can love each other well. Another priceless favor!
Churches are gifts to their communities.
I concluded from my momentary epiphany that my church does incredible favors for people! What’s true here is probably true in all 4.8 million churches in the world. Most of us have just never thought much about it. When we do, we sometimes take those favors for granted. Discouraging church leaders is one of Satan’s most-frequent gambits. Pastor: a healthy local church is an immeasurable gift to its community!
In fact, if you’ll take three minutes, I’ll bet you can come up with a better list than I did. When you do, thank God for your church!
Hal Seed mentors church leaders at www.pastormentor.com. 200,000 copies of the Gift Edition of his book The God Questions have been used as gifts to first time guests. His course Momentum Bootcamp has been used by hundreds of pastors to regain a heart for the lost in their communities.