Whatever your level of commitment at whatever church you call “home,” know that God accepts you right where you are at. Your pastors, if they care about you, love you right where you are at – and they love the other people in your church that way, too. God doesn’t condemn us, so if you are not giving priority to church, don’t take that on you. Then as you grow spiritually, you can take steps to develop in God’s principles for living the life He intends for you.
When it comes to giving church priority, that will mean different things to different people. The Bible says in Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” In the New Testament, the kingdom of God is made up of local churches. Giving priority to church is being committed to a home church, attending it, growing in it, giving to it, and serving in it. The church isn’t the building, the church is a community of people that I’m a part of. Church isn’t just about what we can get out of it; it’s also how we are a part of it to bless other people in and through our church community. We don’t just focus on the people we are, but we welcome others into our church – desiring to reach more people and to grow.
God asks us to commit to one local church. The Bible says that the pastors will be accountable to God for your souls, so acknowledging the spiritual authority of a pastor is important. Those who have experienced a misappropriation of pastoral authority may struggle with commitment. Some withdrawal from attending, growing, giving, and serving. Some will find fault or an excuse and leave that church, go to another church, do the same thing, and go to another church – always uprooting and never getting planted. Some will oppose a pastor by speaking negatively of church leadership. Some will try to pull people away from the pastor’s influence. Some will leave and invite their old friends to leave too. Some will even take a group and split away from that pastor to start their own church.
Thank God, He is merciful. He knows of our struggles and accepts us as we are. He also loves us enough to patiently bring us to another level in His plan for us and for His kingdom. Pastors should share God’s heart, accepting people where they are, understanding their struggles, and loving them to another level.
Here is my personal story:
When I was a little girl, going to church was not something we negotiated. My parents were not preachers – dad was an engineer and mom managed the house and three kids. We went to church three times a week and to special services and events. I enjoyed it the children’s ministry, but I went to church simply because I knew that was part of life (btw, thanks mom and dad, and all my teachers).
In my teenage years, I was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to experience God in a more intimate relationship. It was a crazy, wild time in my life where I came to realize how REAL God was and how CLOSE God was. He was blowing my mind! I couldn’t wait to get to church, youth meetings, youth events – you name it – I was eager to be there (btw, thanks to Pastor Grimes and youth leaders).
I got married and went to Bible school. Again, going to church because I wanted to. However, responsibilities were now a bit heavier on my shoulders, so there were a few times I would have rather stayed at home, but I went because I knew it was the right thing to do. I picked up my body and made myself go. Once I was there, it was a blessing, but my flesh sure opposed me from time to time.
Jerry and I began to serve in ministry. We served in nearly every service, three times a week. We did special events, we worked through the week, we had kids, and we loved it. However, I experienced a few negative things in the church world. I went through my season of disillusionment, as some people call it. I realized people weren’t as perfect as I once thought. We had some problems in our marriage. It got to a point where I was ready to turn my back on church and ministry all together. All I wanted was to focus on my home, my marriage, and my kids.
Jerry wouldn’t let me. We made a church change and we continued to attend, serve, tithe, give… and to be honest, heal. There were times I didn’t want to be there. I started to second guess people. I struggled with trusting God. My pastors knew of our situation, and my co-pastor asked me to come up to the church once a week to volunteer (I now see she was doing that more for me than for the church). God did something in me. He showed me His grace and He showed me where I struggled with performance. Through those difficult years, staying faithful to church and to the Lord is was brought me through and kept me in ministry.
Today, I continue to give church a priority. It’s not just because I’m a co-pastor; it’s because I love the church! I love God’s plan for His kingdom that we’re a part of. I love to see the people I care about when we get together. I love the ones who are young and growing, I love the ones who are hurting and struggling, I love the ones who are faithful and have my confidence – I love them all!
If someone is gone for awhile for whatever reason, and I see their face again – I am glad to see them! I’m not going to judge or condemn them because they missed a service. I’m going to run up and give them a big ‘ol hug. That’s what God would do. If someone makes a mistake, I’m going to stay true to the Word and my authority, but I’m not going to hold it against them.
Most of all, I love my heavenly Father, and I love what He loves. He loves His church as a whole and He loves the local church that I’m a part of. He loves His pastors and church leaders. He loves all His ministers that serve each week with kids, youth, ushering, greeting, singing, sound – every area! Loving God is seen in committing to a local church, giving priority to Him, His kingdom, and our home church.
Being a Christ follower means that I’m following my Teacher, my Master, My Lord… and it’s because I want to, not because I have to. I’m praying for you today that you continue to commit and be faithful to your home church. Love your pastor. Love the people you are a part of, and most of all, love God. His plans for us are good!