Opportunity Knocks!

The other day in my Case Study post, I mentioned an experience I had one time with people complaining that our church had too many new people, and I received a comment asking about that, suggesting that sometimes people who have been in a church a long time might come to feel they are no longer needed when new members step up and start serving in ministry areas that the long time members might have filled for years.  I wanted to expand on my answer to that, and thought this would be a great time to do so, so here goes!

Christians have a way of telling us where they are spiritually; we just tend to blurt it out, and someone who is serving, especially someone who has done so for a long time who says that they feel unappreciated or that they are being pushed aside, is telling us where their level of spiritual maturity is at that moment.  They aren’t quite to the finish line just yet. They are at a maturity level that is a bit like where a teenager is in their growing up process… and there is no disgrace in being a teenager!  This is no insult, no condemnation!  It’s just a point along an adventure that everyone reaches.  The really sad truth, however, is that most American Christians don’t move much beyond this point, but that isn’t their failure, it’s a failure of their church’s leadership!

You can easily recognize someone who is in this intermediate level of maturity, for they are willing to serve, even for long hard hours, but their orientation is still centered more or less on themselves, and they expect thanks, credit, recognition and appreciation.  When a bunch of new workers come along, they are concerned about “their” ministry or “their” service, and this is natural enough, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t the attitude of Christ just yet.

This is a wonderful opportunity for their ministry team leader, or other mature Christian to take this person under their wing and help them up to the next step in their journey with Christ.  To put it another way, these good folks are really asking for some discipleship!  Mentor them, build a relationship of love and trust with them so that you can lead them to see the purpose of the Body, about helping others to grow in their walk with Christ and serve in the church…and, this is a great place to help them come to see that they have an opportunity to help those new people find their way forward too… which is how we learn to make disciples. Everybody grows in their walk with Christ when this happens, if we, as leaders, will only pay attention!

When all is said and done, incidents like this are the benchmarks of our spiritual journey, the times when we are built up together in community as the Body of Christ… we just need to listen and be ready to serve God by serving others.

Now, one last thing: Do you know why we would want to go to the trouble of mentoring at this stage?  Well, it’s really the same thing we would be showing the person who felt left out or unappreciated: We are serving for no other reason than the fact that we love Jesus Christ, and we love one another.  There is no other reward, but that one is more than reason enough, don’t you think?

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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27 Responses to Opportunity Knocks!

  1. bwdell says:

    This is an interesting topic. Why do certain people get tapped to do the volunteer jobs in a church? I think it’s more complicated than a brief post can explore. You discussed how people can get hurt if not appreciated or if not asked to serve. We all need some reward to serve, even if it’s only the eternal reward. Jesus spoke a lot about rewards, and I think God rightly motivates us with rewards.

    Some people are asked to serve because they are able and willing. Sometimes, though, it’s because the leadership knows them better. As leadership changes, the people who are on the radar of the leadership changes. People who are able to serve might not get recruited because they are “under the radar” of leadership.

    Some people are more active in pushing for activities they feel passionate about. They end up starting ministries through the church that address their passion (not always the direction the leadership is aiming for).

    These are just some of the dynamics I’ve seen. I think this just scratches the surface.

  2. vicbriggs says:

    This is a very interesting observation. I am surprised that increased membership could ever be a problem, although I do understand that the greater the number, the more difficulty in maintaining a close sense of community. Perhaps things are changing at a quicker pace than people are able to manage. If I had to guess I’d say that communication and sharing of responsibilities may be able to alleviate some fears.

  3. Little Monk says:

    O my, this is SO right on, Don. I think all have seen it… most here have probably (truth be told) even EXPERIENCED it! It’s that marvelous time when we’ve boldly stepped out, answered our call, and said “Send me, Lord!” and begun a ministry walk.

    We develop “OUR” ministry… and jealously guard our little square of turf to honor and glorify God. Like it’s OUR sandbox, granted us by the Father. And heaven help the uninvited who come to “help” with it, “improve” on it, or …. heaven forbid… “take it over”!

    Makes me blush to admit, but *I* remember those days in my own life.

    What to do about it? Exactly what you’ve instructed. Just walk that maturing minister on to the next level… from “disciple” to “disciple-maker” and let grace lead them on.

    This same dynamic is so clear in Scripture, when we see the ongoing discussion among the Disciples… at first spoken out loud, and then more diplomatically concealed from Jesus, of… “who is greatest… which of us is greatest… in the Kingdom?” Very soon after all that, from Pentecost on, we see such concerns melt away in the glory of the love and light and life of Christ and of sharing Him with their world. But back THEN, back when He yet walked among them in body, that was an important question to Him.

    Lol. ‘Prolly embarrassed them, too, to think about in years later. Wonder how THEY discussed those stories with their followers, when they did that?

    Grace — LM

  4. Not long ago, al lady told me she was leaving our church because we had too many new Christians in the church. I was shocked, as I saw the explosion of new Christians as a sign that the church members were witnessing and bringing new people to Christ. She, however, viewed them as people who were not ready to serve and who need ministry and attention. Therefore, in her mind, our church had too few ‘servers’ and too many needed to be served. Her solution was to change churches. Mine was to minister to new Christians to prepare them for future service.

  5. People Empowerment Project says:

    I think that the difficulty arises in the Western fellowship because of endless distractions, a lack of true desire for discipleship and accountability, and a perpetual growth of natural-mindedness on the part of leadership. (1) Itchy ear syndrome, or even (2) the likelihood / possibility that active membership in local fellowships is an option, rather than a prerequisite for growth, because of the previous two pandemic problems in the immature leadership. Many leaders, praise the Lord, do not have this problem, but finding them may be difficult. But I perceive that many leaders are hampered by their “followers” who aren’t interested in discipleship and accountability. Perhaps what is needed more than anything else at this juncture is a perpetual concert of prayer for the leaders, and serving their needs and expecting less from them on some levels. Many potentially fruitful pastors yield poor fruit from the trees in their orchard due to a lack of involvement by lay support leaders. How much can they do alone?

  6. Reblogged this on Lashondra Graves and commented:
    This is very true and straight to the point.

  7. mzkoko78 says:

    GREAT Post! I’m reminded of my home church where the same two people have served as church treasurer and church secretary for well over 30 years and I’ve always found it kind of disturbing for people to hold such positions for so long, because to me, among other things I won’t bother to mention, it stifles growth for so many others who wish to learn and lead some way in the church. Sadly, but true, we often times get caught up in our titles/positions (and the pay) and forget the true purpose of serving in the church and serving others. Great points on spiritual maturity! Thanks for sharing.

  8. vwoods1212 says:

    I’m reading this and It just jumped out at me: at times older folks who have been in the church for yearrrrs need mentoring as well..they many times get dropped at the side of the road along the way and stay at that point; contented for a while, then they see newcomers growing, then they feel resentment and start to fester. This attitude is a parasite in the body. VW

    • Don Merritt says:

      Yes, exactly right… they feel taken for granted some times, and they are right, only it isn’t in the way they thought at first. Their participation isn’t always what is taken for granted, it’s their need for mentoring and support, for “community” if you prefer that term. We need to take care that we aren’t assuming that a longer term member isn’t more mature and secure spiritually than they really are, thus, we need to keep “discipleing” them… to help them understand God’s larger purpose and to help them feel valued by the Body. Maybe it’s kind of like telling your spouse that you love them… even though they really already know it; it is a reinforcement of sorts.

  9. Randy Lawver says:

    I feel this to be true. As I am one of those new Christians. What once felt as a calling on my life has now become a chore. It seems like through growth I have passed over to a new level which I feel alone. Same old same old this this this…… Never a team effort it is more like Do this my easy way easy meaning no growth or communication.i feel as a voice crying out in the wilderness only to be left out in the cold. I was told a here weeks ago by a member who has been doing a service for a good many years…I work hard and I don’t get paid for what i do my reply was why not share the load it seems like people want every thing one way but is that God’s way.what happen to the student becoming the teacher is it possible God could be working in someone at a faster pace because of the relationship they have with God..do to total surrender to Him and his word.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Randy, you are right, of course. sometimes a leader needs a nudge to get involved in things… let me see what i can do for you all…

      Patience, my friend, patience is your ally!

  10. Well said in every respect, Don. I think that those who are serving, if they have been in the same serving position for a number of years, need to be “nudged” by church leaders – mentored, loved on and discipled, if you will – for two reasons.

    The first is to harvest that leader to grow outside the box they have created for themselves. Discipleship is more than “owning” a single place of serving. It is about learning and growing in the body. The second is to create new spaces for others to serve in new and different ways. How can the church expand and grow if the same spot is led by the same volunteer for years on end? The church, its volunteers and its leaders must be open to new and vibrant ways of thinking, enthusiastic new member who wish to serve, and new opportunities afforded to senior members to serve in new and exciting ways.

  11. paulfg says:

    And “discipling” comes full circle. All of us ministers without title. All of us mentoring and being mentored without distinction. All of us truly equal. All of us truly sacred. Every single one a beautifully crafted creation. Is your phrase “you nailed it”? Discipling: you nailed it.

  12. Made me think of the elder brother in the parable about the Prodigal Son.



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