Is Your Church ‘High Maintenance?’
A good mechanic friend of mine told me years ago that any car will last longer if its owner will do regular maintenance. This includes scheduled oil changes, keeping all the fluids ‘topped off,’ and keeping the vehicle clean. From my personal experience, I have found this to be true. I’ve also seen cars that were not maintained properly and they wore out much faster than they should have.
When it comes to the church, we could ask: “is your church ‘high maintenance’?” Churches, like cars, need constant maintenance. Churches have much more value because they is made up of souls. If churches fail to do maintenance on their members, the members will grow weak and fall away. Churches (and the sheep in them) need shepherding, protecting, leading, guiding, feeding and comforting. They need constant maintenance.
However, some churches are (what I call) “HIGH” maintenance churches. While it is important to provide the things that make for a strong congregation, some churches are made up of folks that are high maintenance.
Some folks are high maintenance and have no choice in being so. They need special attention. Here are some examples: new Christians (babes in Christ), shut-ins, those who have lost loved ones, those who have lost jobs or their health, etc. These are the folks that need special attention from time to time. We exist to serve them. They actually provide us with opportunities of service.
Some Christians are high maintenance and yet they do have a choice. These are the church members who always have some issue in their lives that is related to their not being stronger Christians. These are folks that are always missing Bible classes and worship assemblies. They aren’t involved in church ministry. They are sometimes referred to as ‘fringe’ members. They live lives of constant drama. They are always worried about something, they have difficulty forgiving others, the elders have to call them every week to check on them (sometimes they are offended when called and sometimes they are offended because they aren’t called). Some of them feel neglected, unappreciated, overlooked, slighted, unfriended, lonesome, unconnected, etc. However, they get invited to every church event, they are greeted when they attend worship, and yet they just don’t seem to ‘get it.’ These are high maintenance members. They have not put forth the effort to grow spiritually. In many of these cases, they are the third soil mentioned in the Parable of the 4 Soils (Luke 8; Mark 4). Some of these are the folks that Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15. They expect the faithful to serve them and they never reach the spiritual maturity required to become servants. They are self-centered and fleshly minded. They have chosen to remain spiritually immature. The church leaders and many members spend countless hours trying to reach these folks and help them become faithful members.
What do you do with high maintenance folks? There is a sense in which there is nothing more we can do for these folks (other than what we’ve already implied). However, we must make sure they are loved, shown concern, exhorted, communicated to, encouraged and above all, (knowingly and obviously) accepted. They need phone calls, personal invitations, hospitality, one-on-one visits and prayer. We need to get them involved in some sort of ministry. And, such efforts may take years before they become useful servants in the church.
When do you give up? High maintenance folks keep us from working with other members and non-members. Much of this ‘high maintenance’ nature can be prevented when folks are taught and baptized into Christ. Before we baptize folks, they need to understand what the Lord (and the brethren) expect of them: they are to be disciples. See Matthew 28:19 – Christ says, “Go make disciples….”
Sometimes we are so excited about getting folks baptized that we forget what it means to obey the gospel. When people obey the gospel, they die to the old self and arise to the new self in Christ. They become disciples of Christ. Usually we talk about their giving up sins in their lives—and rightfully so. However, we need to also tell them what the Lord expects of them: growth and service. These last two things need to be illustrated and explained to the person who is about to be baptized. These are a part of his/her counting the costs of being a Christian.
Discipleship is more than church membership. Church membership (to some folks) has become synonymous to showing up to a church service every-once-in-a-while and having their name on the church roll. However, discipleship includes thinking like Jesus, suffering like Jesus, learning from Jesus, praying like Jesus, worshiping like Jesus, following Jesus, talking like Jesus, loving like Jesus, sacrificing like Jesus, living like Jesus, giving like Jesus, telling others about Jesus and serving like Jesus, and above all, laying down our lives for Jesus and His followers. Discipleship calls for total commitment to the Lordship of Jesus (cf. Gal.2:20-21; Luke 9:23). Church membership is important but discipleship is what will make a greater difference in our lives. The word “disciple” and other derivatives of that word is found over 168 times in the New Testament. The word “Christian” is a wonderful/beautiful word, but it is used only 3 times in the New Testament. It appears that God is serious about our being disciples. He has so much to say about it and He uses the word so often.
This should be the goal of any elders, evangelist, Christian and Bible class teacher: to assist others Christians and non-Christians to become disciples of Christ. When we intentionally purposefully seek to make disciples, there will be fewer high maintenance members and the church will grow numerically as well as spiritually. It is worth the effort involved for all involved. Trav