God is up to something! On Sunday, we at Hobart Baptist, witnessed the baptism of 10 people in our service. It was a great time of celebration and thanks to God. I’m sure Jesus is pleased. He is building his church and we have the privilege to be part of it.
Events like this do not happen without the prayers, hard work and faithfulness of God’s people. Over the years many have prayed and asked God to be at work in and through Hobart Baptist Church. Many suffered through difficult times, others were patient and persevering when it seemed little was happening. And there have been quite a few changes that have opened the door for God to work. Now, we see the evidence of God’s answer to those prayers and the hard work.
Remaining level headed
This is a good time to remind ourselves that the church does not exist to serve the needs of the congregation. Instead it exists to serve the mission of God in the world. It is, as Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, [God who] “has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:20, my paraphrase)
I recently read about the pastor of a large church who encouraged his leaders to be very clear that they are not to serve the “members” of the church, but make sure they focus on the “mission” of the church. “If we served the members,” he wrote, “we would have to significantly increase the employee mental health benefit of the leaders because members often disagree!”
Some of us may find it shocking to think that your church is not there to serve you. Yet the Bible is clear. In Colossians it says that “He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence” (1:18). Whose church is it? It’s not mine and it’s not yours. It belongs to Jesus. The NIV Application Commentary explains, “If Christ is the head of the church . . . the church does not exist to meet the needs of its members or to insure its institutional survival, but to fulfil the redemptive purposes of Christ, its head.”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself expecting the church to first and foremost be here for me. I expect the sermon to be relevant to my life, the music should be a style I like, and the songs ones I am familiar with. The length of the service should suit me, and not ask too much of me, and so on. I’m sure it is true for all of us: it’s not hard to be dissatisfied with some aspects of our church as there is always something not to our taste or liking.
Adjusting our atitude
So how are we to deal with our dissatisfaction? There is nothing wrong with dissatisfaction in itself. If we were never dissatisfied we would never change anything. But allowing our dissatisfaction to become unhealthy can lead us to complaining, to bitterness and even to leaving. We can try to change what we don’t like, or be resistant to any change, even what really needs to happen.
But if the church is here to serve Jesus, and not me or the congregation, then there must be another way. If so, what should be my approach? I wonder if firstly we need to get our priorities right. Is having church the way I like it more important than proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and seeing people coming to know him as Lord? I suggest not. If Jesus is glorified in our times of worship, whatever the style, isn’t that something to celebrate? Today we live in a community where the majority of people don’t even bother and don’t care about Jesus, so if he is honoured, in anyway, we should celebrate with the angels.
If the church is here to serve Jesus, and not me or the congregation, then there must be another way.
That is not to say that God doesn’t enjoy diversity. Obviously the format of some churches will suit some people better than others. And that’s ok. God has made us differently, so he has different styles of church for different people.
At Hobart Baptist Church we have our own style. It is changing, but it is built upon a unique history and a unique future. The future will not be the same as the past, but it will be built upon it.
On Sunday, those who were baptised came from our morning congregation, the Church With No Walls group, and our refugee Karen community. No one could have anticipated such an event, but it just goes to show that Jesus is at work building his Church, and part of it is happening amongst us.
Let us continually remind each other that there is only one head of the Church and only one person it exists to serve – and it’s not me (the pastor), it’s not the deacons, it is not the congregation and it is not you. It’s Jesus!
Stephen L Baxter