When a large number of people left our last church, we were asked, “Why didn’t you leave? All your friends have gone.” I replied, “Because God hasn’t told us to go.” There were plenty of reasons not to attend anymore, but I believed we were to stay even though it was hard.
Years later, we ended up leaving under different circumstances and the situation was even more painful. Deciding to stay or leave was based on more than what was uncomfortable or disliked. I don’t know if we made all the right choices, but I believe God can help us find ways to live as a healthy church member in whatever church He leads us to attend.
The word “church” can imply a local building and congregation, or the body of believers globally. For this article, I am referring to a broad spectrum of Christ-following believers committed to a local body that meets regularly in a building. We each have our individual roles to live and our own lives to lead.
Consider these ten tips to help you become a healthy church member.
1. Seek God First
It may seem obvious but seeking God first and foremost comes before anything else. When we seek Him regularly and put our faith in Him, we will have an anchor for determining how we should live and what we should do in tough situations.
Our anchor cannot be the pastor, a charming leader, a talented music team, or the activities a church does or does not do. Our anchor is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Seek God first through regular prayer, individual study in God’s Word, and by choosing to hear and rely on the Holy Spirit over self-focused desires. Choose God’s guidance, ways, and timingevery time there is confusion, disruption, and discontent.
2. Live Out of the Overflow
What goes in affects what comes out. When we fill our hearts, minds, and choices with anything that opposes God’s character and will, we will feel the impact in negative ways. It affects our relationships and our ability to live well as individuals free in Christ.
We cannot pour out from what we have not put in. We cannot minister to other souls when our own is neglected and not filled by God. We cannot fill our hearts and minds with God-opposing input and expect to God’s light to shine through us. We must take care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. A close friend can help evaluate where we might be running on empty.
3. Build and Develop in Relationship with Others
Many verses talk about loving, serving, building up, encouraging, and praying for one another. We are designed to live in relationship with other people by a God who is relational in nature.
Connection in community means engaging with each other through the ups and downs of life. When we first step into a community, we work through awkwardness. We often connect on similarities and areas of agreement. When our differences in personality, beliefs, and choices come to the surface, the strength of a relationship is tested. We are each responsible for responding in healthy ways and working towards stronger connections.
4. Participate in the Exchange
When I hear people talk about how this church didn’t appeal to them, and that church didn’t have this thing or another, I often think, “Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.” In reality, I think it goes both ways.
One of the most fundamental components to any relationship is the way two people interact. There is an exchange of giving and receiving from both parties. This holds true in our relationship with God and with others in the church body. As members of a church, we ought to participate in giving of ourselves to the lives of others. We also need to receive. It is in the exchange that we grow and help others along the way.
5. Align with God and Within Yourself
I hear people talk about aligning yourself with God and His Word. I take this to mean that we are to act in ways that align with what God desires and commands. Our hearts are to align with God’s heart. This includes how he sees us and other people. Too often we can get disjointed by focusing more heavily on one aspect of God over the whole. If we place our emphases on God’s commands, we can miss God’s heart. Likewise, we can focus on the love of God and his heart towards others in ways that distort us from living aligned with his commands. Both are important and require the Holy Spirit’s active role in our lives to give us guidance.
Healthy church members also become aligned within themselves. When we say one thing and act in ways that oppose it, we are not aligned. We may say we believe something, but our actions reveal a different, deeper belief. As we pursue God’s truth and actively walk with Him in areas of spiritual growth, we will become more aligned within ourselves as well. Our words and actions will line up.
6. Cultivate Your Soul
It’s easy to live as if we only need God on Sundays. We can fall into a rut of living for ourselves during the week and then relying on our pastor/preacher to pull us out on the weekend. We might expect their message to make us feel good or fire up our spirits, but it’s not their job to refuel our souls.
We must pursue the hard work of pulling out lies and distorted beliefs, then replacing them with truth. We must choose to lay our ways down for the ways of God. If we want to be healthy church members, we must let God transform us from the inside out. As He does, we can experience more of Him and enjoy Him more fully. We are also equipped to know and love others and be known and loved by them.
7. Slow Down and Savor the Sabbath
Our busy lives deplete us in many ways. We might skip out on fun, relationship building events, and physical activity. We might also skip out on sleep and helpful times of quiet that are without distractions from work, technology, and daily tasks. Constant busyness takes a toll and it robs us of intimate moments with our Creator.
Slowing down includes leaving margin for rest and fun. It also means intentionally pursuing times of quiet. In moments of solitude, hearts become still before the Lord and we learn to hear from God. God gave us a gift in the Sabbath. We are blessed by coming into closer union with Him when we set aside time to connect our heart with His.
8. Own Your Log
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says to stop looking at the speck in other people’s eyes while there is a log in our own. This spiritual metaphor should remind us that we are not without sin. It might be easier to see what’s wrong with another person, but it’s necessary to own our own sin and need.
We get tripped up by seeing another person’s sin as greater than ours. While some are more harmful and destructive, none are greater in the way they separate us from a holy God. We cannot make another person do anything, but we can own our own sins and repent of them before God. This includes our pride, our self-protection, and other ways we live for ourselves and not empowered by God. We must recognize our own failings and let God help us in them.
9. Activate Faith
We can live passive lives by expecting others to fix us. We want leaders to make us feel good and often expect God to miraculously modify our circumstances towards our preferred interests. Doing so is costing many of us in ways we may never know.
If you are waiting on God to answer a specific longing and question, ask Him what He is saying. Sometimes He wants to reveal something we’re unaware of. If you are waiting for things to change, it could be God has something different for you to change.
10. Live a Life of Surrender and Humility
The life of a Christian is a life of surrender. True surrender is done willingly by choosing to trust that God’s plan, timing, and ways are better than ours. It means giving up preconceived ideas about how things should be and our limited understanding of how God works. It means valuing ourselves and others as God sees us. Choose humility and surrender your view for His.
These ten things are not an exhaustive list, but they are a great start for any believer seeking to live as a healthy church member. To go deeper, consider these 31 Choices to Live Well and this free printable with verses for additional study on how to become a healthy church member.
Jolene writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her enjoying the journey by laughing with loved ones or adding to her collection of vintage glassware with a 70s flair.
Connect with her online via YouTube, Twitter/
Originally published Wednesday, 18 April 2018.