Recently, I began listening to the sermons available on the website of my parents’ church, the church I attended in high school and whenever I was home during my college years. Though I might otherwise choose to listen to NPR or Pandora radio, sometimes I need a break from hearing about the fight in Congress over President Trump’s nominee for Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Department of the Posterior, and, let’s face it, Pandora’s music stream isn’t as exhaustive as one might hope.
When I listened to the first sermon, I was surprised at the difference between what I remember hearing in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning and what is recorded through the sound system. When the congregation is singing with the praise leaders, and all the voices are mixing with the band, reverberating off the ceiling and walls, you just might think the sound could lift you straight up to heaven. But the recording, which cuts out all the congregation’s singing, well…it’s a little less inspiring. Don’t misunderstand me: the church’s praise team members are all extremely talented (especially the bass player*), but the individual voices and instruments cannot blend as well as when a hundred or so voices are singing with them.
I realized that the watering down of a worship service – when just a few people are highlighted and the rest are removed – reflected how much every Christian matters in God’s Church. In the small group I attend, we recently shared what we considered our “spiritual gifts.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 states that there are different types of gifts, service, and ways of working, but the entire spectra of all three can can be used to serve and glorify God. I cannot drive a bus full of kids to church camp, but I can teach a Sunday School class and wash dishes after a potluck. Of course, service for God extends beyond one’s personal church to the world-wide community of Christians. In both places, the followers of Jesus Christ are called to teach, serve, lead, give generously, and show mercy according to their abilities for the strengthening of God’s Church (Romans 12:4-8).
“But I’m not a missionary or a pastor,” someone might say. “I’m a plumber/salesman/flight attendant/exterminator. My everyday business doesn’t really deal with ‘God stuff.'” Well, fair point. On this side of heaven, the human race is bothered with needs that must be fulfilled. Once we reach our glorious reward, then our entire being will be devoted to “God stuff.” But while we’re here, we still must eat by the sweat of our brow (thanks a lot, Adam). But even if a career is not carried out in a church, it can still be used as a mighty pulpit. When the wonderful – nay, miraculous – regeneration of a Christian occurs by the Holy Spirit entering that person, the fruit of the Spirit that person bears is evidence of God’s character. That fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control – can be exhibited by a pastor baptizing a new believer or a plumber installing a sink for a fair price and with a kind smile. Or a salesman refusing to deal dishonestly. Or a flight attendant patiently assisting a rude passenger. Or an exterminator getting rid of pests in the most humane way possible (rats are God’s creatures, too). Personally, I work in the food industry, and I can serve God by ensuring safe, wholesome food is produced to feed the people He made.
From my past years in various churches, I have too often seen too few people carry too much of the load that is an inherent part of managing the many facets of a church. I believe God has blessed His people enough that the same person does not need to coordinate the nursery schedule, play piano for the praise band, and clean the bathrooms after Wednesday night activities in addition to working a full-time job and raising a family. Sufficient service on the part of God’s people can keep saints from becoming broken-down and burned-out. So consider this: what talents and gifts has God given to you? How can you put them to use in the local and world-wide church? Where do you see a need that you can meet?
While I enjoy hearing the sermons of a very insightful pastor and singing along with familiar voices of the praise team, listening to a podcast isn’t the same as attending God’s house on a Sunday morning. I don’t experience the feeling of security that comes with being surrounded by fellow Christians. I also don’t see the ushers greeting guests and handing out bulletins, the audio-visual team hard at work in the back of the sanctuary, the frazzled but satisfied-looking Children’s Church teachers. But I’m glad to know they are there on a Sunday morning, impacting lives in their community, and I can now use my talents at my current church according to the ways God has blessed me.
Image credit: http://www.1stchurchjc.org/uploads/4/1/4/2/4142961/_148785.jpeg