There’s a natural progression that comes with going to church.
First, you attend for a little bit.
You check it out, get your feet wet, and see how you fit in. People are (hopefully) nice to you as you get comfortable, and the goal is to see if you can plant roots in that church.
Next, you become a regular.
You’re part of the regular Sunday, your presence isn’t seen as an anomaly, and you start to build relationships. You get to know people and they get to know you.
Through each of those two stages, the goals are very clear. You are trying to grow in your relationship with God and that particular church community. It’s all about following Jesus and doing that together.
The next stage is where the goal can blur a bit.
After that, you start serving. Or maybe it just becomes expected that you’ll start serving.
Don’t get me wrong; serving is a great thing.
It’s the example Jesus left for us and it’s the model we should strive to emulate. This is not a piece that is going to bash serving.
In fact, it was through serving in my church that I met some of my closest friends, felt most aligned with God’s presence, and took my most significant steps of growth spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
The problem that can arise is that serving can start to become the goal of your church experience. Church stops being the place you look to for your own growth and becomes the place where you are responsible for the growth of others.
I know how this works not just because I’ve seen it in others but also because I’ve seen it in myself.
I was a youth and worship pastor for about seven years. My Sundays were spent teaching Bible studies, coordinating servants, arriving early for sound checks, and making sure others had the things they needed.
I loved that job. I’m so glad I had that experience. While I was in it, I just thought that’s what Sundays were supposed to be.
Having been out of that job for over a month now, I’ve started seeing Sundays very differently. My wife and I have gone to different churches we’ve wanted to visit in our area and have just attended. No serving, no leading, no nothing. In some places we’ve been, we weren’t known at all.
While it was a hard adjustment to make, it’s been incredibly freeing. I only realized by stepping out of serving how little I viewed Sundays as part of my growth. I wasn’t really going to church even trying to grow. I was just focused on what I was giving.
This piece is not to turn you into a lazy, selfish Sunday seat-filler. Serving is great for your soul. But it’s not all your soul needs.
To the crazy diligent servant: thank you for all you’re doing, but remember you are more than what you do. God wants to use your church as a place He can speak to you! Don’t get so caught up in work that you miss out on hearing Him.
If you aren’t looking at your church as the place to help you grow, you probably won’t stay in a healthy enough place where serving will remain good for you either.
Jesus sets us free from the idea of being “good enough” for His love. We are loved in spite of our shortcomings, and no amount of serving can change that relationship dynamic.
The more I realize that God can do just fine without me, the greater my appreciation for Him grows. We aren’t just coworkers; He’s a loving father who has it all figured out.
God can use all kinds of sinful, broken people. One kind of person that’s hard for God to use is the one who thinks they don’t need to grow anymore.