As a pastor, I truly love the local church. In my own context, I love my church that I’m a member of and that I have the privilege to leading. However, as I often explain to my children when we read the Bible together in the evening—I don’t love the church simply because I’m a pastor. Even if I worked at a local business in town and was a member of the church who didn’t hold a given office—I would still love the church and would encourage my children to do the same.
As I prepare to speak in a conference in a little more than a week from now, I’m reflecting upon the given assignment of preaching on the topic: “Loving the Church Like Your Life Depends On It.” As I consider this assignment, I believe we should actually love the church with such passion which will often shape our commitment, service, worship, and various other involvement. So, how do we love the church and become a profitable and encouraging church member?
Pray for Your Church
When was the last time you prayed for your deacons? Did you know that deacons are often praying for you and your family? Not only that, they are are looking for ways to serve the church (including your family) in areas of physical, practical, and spiritual needs. Without good deacons, the church will not be able to function properly—therefore, it’s vitally important for you to pray for the deacons within your local church.
When was the last time you prayed for your pastor(s)? To hold the office of pastor is very demanding. It requires spending time in prayer for families within the church and committing oneself to much time in God’s Word in preparation for preaching and teaching. One of the greatest ways to discourage a pastor is to spend more time complaining about him than you do praying for him. The pastor can’t just leave his work at the office. After praying and studying the Word, the pastor also leaves the office (or home depending on the time) in times of emergency to be with families during times of sickness and death.
In the early days of the Church, we find the people of God praying together and for one another. Consider all of the “love one another” passages in the Bible and how they center upon the intentional care that the church is to have for one another. At the center of this intentional and sacrificial love is prayer. It’s far more difficult to be divided when you spend time praying for one another.
James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Become Sacrificial Rather than Selfish
As we live life, sometimes our responsibilities of family time, ball practices, education, vacations, marriage enrichment, and work responsibilities will fill up multiple calendars—but as we live life, we must keep the church at the center of the equation. The secular world has zero commitment to the church—and it seems that many things compete to push the church down the priority list. Remember, Satan is crafty in how he works and children are watching how we make decisions. How we use our time, our talents, and our treasure speaks volumes about the priority of the church and the mission of Christ.
When was the last time you considered who actually arrived early to turn on the lights or stayed late to lock up the building? That’s just a couple of examples of many things that are necessary on a weekly basis to benefit the gathering of the local church. It’s more than just showing up. If everyone just showed up at 11:00am on Sunday morning the church would be shallow and disorganized. Have you considered the volunteers who work with children or teachers who labor in the Word? What about the finances? How does the church pay the bills, meet budget, pay salaries, do ministry, engage in missions, and reach a fallen world with the gospel? Have you considered the financial needs of your local church? Where does that need land on your priority list?
Forgive One Another and Love One Another
Through the years as a pastor, I’ve witnessed numerous families struggle with bitterness and division within the church. They have harbored thoughts, feelings, and ideas in their heart against another individual or family within the church. Not only does this harm that particular family (or individuals involved), but it will harm the entire church as a whole. Mark Dever said, “If you are not expressing proper Christian love to every member of your church, you are in disobedience to God and you are hindering the evangelistic work of your church.” 
The calling of a Christian is the pursuit of unity. Consider the words of Paul in Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” The words of Paul in Ephesians 4 become more intense on this subject of unity and forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:3, Paul says, Christians are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The word “maintain” is taken from the Greek term “τηρέω” meaning, “To retain in custody, keep watch over, guard. It can be defined as, causing a state, condition, or activity to continue.” In other words, it’s not optional. The Christian must be striving with great intentionality and purpose to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We spend time maintaining our automobiles, maintaining our HVAC units on our homes, but often not enough time maintaining unity within our church.
We turn to John’s words in 1 John 4:7-8, and the proof that we love God is that we love one another. Paul would not allow for disunity and splintering of fellowship within the local church. Notice his words in Ephesians 4:29-32
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Take Worship Seriously
One of the best ways to become a productive and encouraging church member is to have a high view of worship. Rather than centering your worship on your music preferences or shallow preaching filled with recycled jokes—come anxious to hear from God’s Word and longing to sing praises to God.
Preaching must take the central place in worship. It’s through the preaching of God’s Word that sinners are awakened to saving faith and consistently sanctified in the truth of the Scriptures. When preachers turn to gimmicks such as dressing up in costumes, flying drones in the worship center, and all types of hype-building to grow their church—they turn into religious pep-rally leaders rather than expositors of God’s Word. We need congregations who would find that humiliating and distasteful rather than appealing and acceptable.
If you come to gather with the church to be satisfied with the sound of the music and the production (or presentation) of the songs—you will likely leave disappointed. If you come to offer up praises to the God who has saved you, it’s quite probable that you will leave fulfilled. For far too long within specific pockets of evangelicalism, we have fed the culture of entertainment so that we now have churches who pay professionals to do the worship for the church. It’s not uncommon to hear a band or a big voice on Sunday rather than the congregation.
Rather than getting in the car and driving to church on Sunday thinking about what the local church can do to satisfy you, why not consider what you can do for your local church and how you can become a profitable and encouraging church member? If every member in your local church was just like you, would you consider that a healthy church or an unhealthy church?
- Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, 3rd Edition, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 139.