Why solely giving to the church is dangerous

As a pastor’s wife, I’m prone to think of church in certain terms, and it’s mostly about how God has called me to lead and serve in ours. In other words, church to me is very often equated with giving; ministering to people in organic and inorganic ways, being available to those who have questions or needs, listening, asking heartfelt questions, helping make connections, welcoming new folks, counseling, greeting and answering questions. Although I haven’t always been able to say so, I genuinely count the ministry God has given me as an honor and a privilege.

But sometimes I am almost so robotically tuned to “giving” mode that I forget how much I need the ministry of the church myself. I don’t mean that I forget I have needs; I’m well aware of them. I mean that I overestimate my importance in the church and underestimate the importance others are intended to have in my life according to God’s design for the church. This is a dangerous perspective for any leader in the church.

Because here’s what happens. When I wake up on Sunday morning after a busy weekend or with a heavy heart and know deep down that I have nothing in my flesh to give to others, it can be very difficult to prepare my heart and mind for church. Rather going to church with a prayerful expectancy to enjoy the mutual ministry of the Body, I’m prone to self-condemnation because of my weakness, grumbling and hiding my needs from others. It’s a self-protective, just-get-through-church perspective, because it requires me to be strong and to give but never receive.

In recent months, I’ve been thinking about this as God has done a ton of work in my heart regarding my identity, especially about how I try to identify myself primarily as a pastor’s wife and how I try to be important and respected by pleasing people rather than looking to delight my Father. One sweet result of all this is that I’ve seen a renewed enjoyment of our church and a genuine excitement at how God is using people in our church to minister to others, including to me. I find myself going into church on Sundays with a refueled expectancy and craving to sing corporately, hear the Word proclaimed, remember the Lord’s death in communion, see faithful men and women serve with their gifts and hear stories of how God is working in the lives of other believers. I give, and I receive, and I glory in the God who has authored and is sustaining this thing called the church.

I recognize that this change in perspective has occurred because God has done a work in me to help me properly estimate both my role in the church and the impactful ministry of the people around me who are walking in faith in everyday ways. I have so much to learn from them.

Like the ones grieving their loved ones both with real emotions and with a very real hope,

And the ones who are forgiving because they have been forgiven so much,

The ones who are soft to the conviction of God,

The ones who are fighting for purity and living purposefully and faithfully in unwanted singleness,

The ones who are seeking to serve rather than be served,

The ones who are living respectfully and faithfully before unbelieving husbands,

The ones who are loving children–adopted children, biological children, fostered children, special needs children, other people’s children–as a blessing from the Lord,

The ones who are using their creative skills to put words to all of our doubts and emotions and yet then call us to faith,

The ones who are seeking to be a blessing in their workplaces,

The ones who are meeting tangible needs for neighbors, friends, and strangers,

The ones who are unafraid to step into the messiness of the lives of others, offering counsel and wisdom,

The ones who are seeking to bring the outsiders in,

The ones who are using their every spare moment to prepare Bible study lessons so that others might know and love the Word,

And the ones who are sharing their redemption stories so that others might know how their own redemption is possible.

These encourage me. They serve me. And oh how I need them! Because in their faithfulness and their ministry, whether directed at me or not, my faith is solidified and strengthened.

The church becomes ever more beautiful to me.

Published May 23, 2016