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?