The people who love the Church the most are those who have the most invested in it.
I originally wrote down that line after someone shared an article on social media about all the problems with the Church. Shortly after it was posted, people started commenting on their agreement with the post. Many of the people who posted their words about this article were people I knew. Some of them had attended the Church I lead. Suddenly, like the voice of God, I saw one thing all the names had in common. None of them were personally invested in our Church.
By being personally invested, I mean they did not attend regularly, they were not connected to any small group, they rarely gave financially, and they do not serve in any ministry. They have a casual connection to the Church at best, and they would not have called it their extended family.
The Church in the Bible is referred to as the family of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul even encourages older members to be viewed as parents in the faith. It is a powerful image, but it also comes with some strings attached. If you are a part of my family, other than in name only, then there are expectations on you. My parents were expected to raise me and instruct me on how to live. My siblings and I had daily responsibilities to do around the house. My children expect me to care for them, guide them, protect them, and take care of them. Being in a family is more than sharing a last name; it is about being personally connected.
Every Sunday afternoon, my wife hears me complain about all the people who skipped worship this week. Honestly, it has nothing to do with my ego as a leader. I could care less if I lead a large Church. My frustration is that people are missing out on what our family is doing. I see people who have not invested themselves in the work of the Lord through our Church, and the result is that they have become like a guest. Guests are not the same as family. Guests come in, and they judge their surroundings and the owners of the establishment. Guests think, “I would not do it that way” and “I would make that better” and a host of other thoughts about how the family functions. A family embraces our flaws and loves people because they are “my people.”
One of the toughest parts of ministry is getting people to be personally invested in the Church as a family. The flip side is that it is also the most rewarding thing I watch. When people love, help, serve, give, and bless one another, it is difficult to describe.
Maybe if you are critical of the Church, you should ask yourself, “Do I see those people as a part of the family of God, or am I just judging them like a guest in their house?” Your view of the Church reveals more about you than it does about those who attend each week.