What do people do without a church family?

I often ask myself this question as I see the church surround those going through life transitions. As new babies arrive, physical needs arise, or seasons of loss weave in and out of church members’ lives, it astonishes me to see how the local body of believers moves to support, assist and surround those members in their time of need.

The church does not exist solely to meet our own needs, but the Bible is clear that many spiritual, physical and emotional needs are to be met as the body of Christ cares for its members.

Yet even those connected to a church family may miss out on what God has ordained in providing the local church. For many, the church is a place to consume. Sundays offer a place to take the kids, get free coffee, and take in some songs and a message. Entertainment value may fluctuate, but all in all, it’s not bad for free.

The church is an easy place to be a consumer, but that is not what the church is intended to be. When care, correction and companionship are needed on the road of the Christian life, the local church is the God-given, Biblical prescription.

So whether you have simply been a consumer of the church, or recognize that there is more you could do to be part of a local body of believers, I offer three suggestions for how to take advantage of your church—in a good way.

1) Know and be known

Ask yourself a few questions: If I strayed from the Gospel and needed correction, who would keep me from error? If I entered a season of loss, who would I turn to for support? Who are the people I am prepared to encourage, care for and support in their seasons of life?

A part of the body can’t be cared for if it is not known. Pastors need to know whom they are to shepherd, and sheep need to know the smell of each other’s wool.

As a church grows, it is more and more incumbent on individual members to ensure they are involved in a small community of believers where they are known and know others. That small community must be linked clearly with pastoral care and oversight. You can’t fulfill the biblical mandates of the ‘one another’s if you don’t know who the ‘one another’s are.

To be biblically pastored well, make sure you not only know your pastor’s name, but that he knows yours. Don’t just spend time before the service waiting for others to greet you—go and meet new people. To ensure there is a community around you, you need to introduce yourself into a community.

2) Give

It is easy not to care about things we aren’t invested in. I don’t worry about changing the oil in a rental car—all I care about is that it works while I’m in it.

However, if the car is my own, I invest time, energy and resources in its maintenance and upkeep. In large part, this is because I also reap the benefits of such investments. My car provides for my transportation needs and I ensure it continues to be able to do so.

In the Western church, it is often easy to treat our church experience like a rental car. We expect it to provide for all of our needs, but if we find ourselves inconvenienced, we simply trade it out for a new one and chastise the manager. God tells us in the Scriptures that we are to sacrifice of our own resources (time, money, etc.) for the sake of the mission of the church as a whole. This isn’t just so our churches can grow, but so that we can grow with our churches.

On a very basic level, we care more for a church building if we helped provide it. We are more likely to ask how someone’s family is doing in a time of loss if we have provided them with a meal in that time. We pray more for a person if we have spent time learning about their life.

Don’t just consume from a local church—invest in one. Add your voice when the church is singing. Add your attention when your pastor preaches. Don’t just ask what the church can give you, ask what you can give to the church.

3) Pray

One of the most selfless things we can do for someone is to pray for them. There is a reason the Lord’s Prayer is given in the plural form. We are not only to pray for God to be honored, our daily bread to be given and temptation to be thwarted in our own personal lives, but we are to seek these things in community.

It is difficult to be indifferent toward someone if you are praying for them. Of course, it is difficult to know how to pray for someone if you do not know them and have not invested time or energy with them. Praying for your church family ultimately helps you as well if you are intimately connected with it. So pray for “us” and “them”—not just “I” and “me.”

God ordained the local church to be His hands and feet in the world. The body of Christ, the church, is His bride, and He cares for her. We are washed together in the Word in order to glorify Jesus. Included in this call is the joyful sacrificial responsibility to care for one another.

Consumers aren’t carers. If one desires to be cared for, one must desire to care for others.

Decide that not only will you be known by others, but that you will know others as well.

Don’t just consume the time, energy and resources of others—contribute yours.

Don’t’ just take advantage of your church; take advantage of your church—in a good way.