It's an unassailable fact that today's church stands as a pale shadow of its former self. The non-serious way it treats its responsibilities towards the spiritual and physical growth of its members is a case in point.
I am concerned and you must too.
Days ago, an ardent reader of my posts who is a lady sent me a WhatsApp message that has rattled my world of thoughts. She wrote unambiguously that: "When the church needs help, it calls on its members, but when its members need help, they are told to ask God. Why...???"
How true is her claim?
Honestly, it took hours of cogitation before I responded to her question.
It's true that many Christians see the church as the place to fellowship with their first family and as a result, they expect some help from them anytime they are in difficult. I believe it isn't wrong to think that way considering the relationship that is expected to exist between the church and Christians.
The church owes the congregation a responsibility in the same way the congregation owes the church. The congregation makes the body of Christ and absolutely no ministry can survive without the contributions of its members.
But the question begs asking if the church has been dutiful to discharge this sacrosanct service to its constituents. Your guess is right. I can say with firm conviction that the orthodox churches have done somethings that show they take the welfare of their members seriously. However, this can't be said of the many Charismatic churches.
It's biblical that Christians don't fellowship just to hear the word of God. The Bible in Philippians 2:19-20, says: "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare."
"Genuinely concerned for your welfare" is the phrase that interests me most in the scripture. Are ministers genuinely concerned about the welfare of the congregation today? There were two sides in this passage so let us go further to see the other side.
Scripture in Philippians 2:21-22 says, "For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel."
The Apostle Paul, in giving light to what he had stated in verses 19 and 20 of the earlier scripture, tries to tell us that, during his time, there were others who sought their own interests and not that of Jesus Christ. It should be noted that handling a congregation is about the people's welfare in Christ, being concerned about the things that are capable of drawing them back into the world and eliminating them. The issues could range from marriage challenges, disobedience of children, joblessness and an understanding of the Bible among others. Shepherding is more of a responsibility than a luxury.
The true purpose of the 'gathering' from the early church was not done for the interest of any single individual, but for the edification of the members and the glory of Christ Jesus. The timeless question is: To what purpose do we gather today in our auditoriums?
There are many mega churches in the world today that are making millions of cedis and dollars from members. What has been their focus? Is it soul winning? And let me ask you that after soul winning what next? I have heard some Ministers made huge financial demands on their members for soul won winning crusades and I tell myself that that should be enough to rid the world of evil. But nothing happens.
Do we win the souls to keep them in Christ or to increase tithes and offerings? What is the motive? If we are able to identify the motive and the direction of the vision of any ministry, we will know their responsibility towards the welfare of the congregation.
The welfare of congregants is one of the major aspects of ministry that some charismatic churches have ignored. In as much as the church is a spiritual entity, the church is not a mere gathering. The church is Christ who lives in the person. It is good that we have institutionalised the gathering or the fellowship in Christ but it's only meaningful when there is an effort by the institution to keep everyone in it on track for the heaven mission. It's meaningless to have a huge congregation when you have ignored their spiritual and physical growth.
I feel many congregants are unfairly treated in many ministries today. They are left alone to battle the world of evil and in many ministries it's all about getting their monies for huge church projects. The church building is more important to many ministries than the people they preach to. Whiles we strive to build mega church temples which will be destroyed even in the end, we must pay attention to the growth of the people whose monies are used to build these structures.
God does not live in the building as we always say, He lives in the people. So if we want to do God any good we need to be very responsible to the congregation. Pastors are shepherds and not presidents of states. Pastors are not called to form billionaires club. Pastors are not called for a fashion show on the pulpit. We are called to lead a flock. The sheep must eat, drink and be kept on track. Until these things are done we are not truly shepherding.
If the pastors are not paying attention to unemployment in their congregation, divorce, illiteracy and so forth, the members might be tempted to engage in all kinds of immoral transactions to make money. And yes some have become "sakawa" members. It's not just a matter of telling them to give and it shall be given to them. We must go the extra mile by helping to elevate them to the position where they will be able to give more. We must not also place too much financial burden on people which in one way or the other can become a stumbling block to those who do not have. You cannot give what you don't have. Further we cannot make financial demands of our people with the hope of ushering them into greater blessings.
How much does the orphan and the widow have to give? How much does the unemployed has to give? Does it mean some people can be more blessed than others because of their financial disadvantages? You can answer these questions. Surprisingly, some churches pay much attention to those with deep pockets than those with the shallow pockets. The former help to make the life of the pastor comfortable than the latter.
Carefully take a read of the scripture in Philippians 3:18-19, which said: "For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things."
It's a fact that the god of some of the pastors is their bellies and their minds are set on earthly things. Apostle Paul was right when he warned the church of those who carry themselves as ministers of the gospel yet their minds are still worldly. Their thinking and behaviour are material. They mind earthly glory and the fashion than the things of Christ. They crave so much for worldly recognition and affluence. The things of Christ cannot be anything else than the welfare of the flock.
The Bible in John 21:15, says: "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Feeding the lambs goes beyond preaching. Some people have ignored the sheep, for whom Christ came to die that painful death. The Apostle Paul calls these people 'enemies of the cross.' And they are with us today. They have not ceased to exist; they are even more in the contemporary churches than they were in the past.
Jesus led by example by paying attention to his congregation as a master and Lord. First was his unimaginable love for the twelve disciples and the compassion he demonstrated by feeding a very huge crowd with bread and fish after the first crusade in Christiandom.
In John 17:12 the Bible says, "While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled."
The joy of Christ was that he lost none of the people entrusted to His care save the son of destruction. He guarded them from the evil one through prayers and sound teaching. He even paid their taxes for them. He was with them always and showed heighten concern in order for them not to go astray. Without what Jesus did, it would be easy for the disciples to have gone wayward. All the disciples he called were sinners but none returned to his sins except Judas Iscariot who was driven by greed to betray Christ.
In the same vein, many church leaders are betraying Christ today out of greed. They have left the true calling to pursue riches and fame. Many have betrayed Christ by leaving their flocks to perish, instead of being watchmen for the flock.
We are not to lose any Christian to the world.
Is it not heartbreaking to hear that a Christian has converted to Islam? What happened? If we so much care about the flocks we will be terrified to see them suffer because the enemy dwells on their sufferings to pull them into the world. Imagine you are a pastor and you saw a church member prostituting at night, what will be your immediate reaction? Will you conclude that she has not heard your sermons well? Or that she is predestined to be lost? Noooo! She might have been driven into the business by either poverty or greed or both of them.
The message can be heard but in these last days, the Lord has prophesied that there will be very hard times so we have so much work to do as pastors if we genuinely want to see our members to make it to heaven. This means, the salvation of our congregation must mean more to us than their money, though it is important for spreading the gospel. We need to juggle between the money we need to take the gospel to forgotten places on this earth and meeting physical needs.
When we collect from the rich, we must be humble to give it to the poor. Paul received from the Corinthians and doled them out to the Macedonians. What an example!
In the early church, the leaders and members shared things equally among themselves and the Bible recorded that none lacked anything. It shouldn't excite you if as a pastor, you have two or three people you can boast as being rich. Bring everyone on board.
Let's see the feeling of the early Apostles towards the church. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 Scripture says, "But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."
The pastor can be akin to a nursing mother who does not only have to breastfeed her baby, she has to share her life with it too. We need to ensure that our people become what Christ wants to see them becoming. I do not say some will not fall away, but we have to make sure everyone stays in the faith and internalise the teachings of Christ. If the true affection is there for the people, we will truly be there for them when they need us the more.
Child of the Most High God, I will implore you to desirev the growth of your fellow man and sympathise with him/her no matter the situation. Remember: it's our responsibility not only to fellowship to but to share. Be moved by compassion and let your joy be that many are rising from poverty to prosperity and from sin to righteousness. And as a pastor, I encourage you to let nothing be done at the cost of the salvation of your members. Let's pay attention to their needs and make Christianity attractive and welcoming for the people.
Remain blessed and Shalom!
Contact me and let's talk about the gospel.