Rashional Thoughts — Could too much ‘church’ actually hurt believers’ spiritual growth?

The concept intrigued me — worship, Sunday School, discipleship and service. Those were the only four commitments my seminary buddy said he was requesting of the members of the congregation he served as pastor.

He cut out all extracurricular activities. He urged the members to move away from the once-pushed plan to build a recreational facility. And he asked the ministers on staff to eliminate any unnecessary meetings.

He wants the congregation and staff members to dedicate themselves to growing in Christ and being salt and light in the community, not being busy at church.

If church members are so busy doing church activities, then they aren’t out in the community, he said. And if they are exhausted from all the church obligations, then they won’t have much energy left for their own spiritual growth, much less sharing with nonbelievers.

Overwhelmed with life

I thought more about what my friend was attempting to do in his church and remembered a strong Christian family I learned about who pulled away from church recently solely because of being overwhelmed with life. Church — which had been a major focus of this family’s life for years — had diminished into one more distressful obligation riddled with guilt for not doing enough. I’m sure no one actually forced these feelings on the mother and father, but it was certainly how they were feeling and it influenced their decision to pull their family out of the church.

Many are reaching out to the family, urging them to return and sharing concerns of how being out of church is not the answer. But I’m not sure anyone is finding a way for them to simply come worship without feelings of unrealistic expectations.

Calm instead of bustling?

What if our experience in church was truly a Sabbath experience of complete and full worship of the one true living God rather than a schedule of bustling activities where we zip into the parking lot still getting ready, run into the church service five or 10 minutes late, then rush to our Sunday School (or life group) class while catching up with friends along the way?

What if we knew our time attending church services each week would be energizing and filling but not hectic? What if we could truly clear our minds, calm our hearts and still our souls so we could hear from God in those moments and give sacrificially through our complete worship? What if we could leave our church services ready to face the world again?

Responsibility to be prepared

Of course, it is our responsibility as individual Christians to be prepared for worship and not the church staff’s issue. We have to be disciplined enough to spend time in the Word throughout the week so our hearts are prepared for the corporate worship service. And we have to be disciplined enough to guard our schedules appropriately to prevent the chaos that sometimes revolves around church time.

But still I wonder if our church leaders could do more to help members see the importance of being still (Ps. 46:10). If there are constant requests to sign up for endless activities at church, then members will feel obligated and sometimes even pressured to participate, which adds one more thing to the schedule.

Rested and revived

While there are certainly special events we would not want to give up for various reasons, it would be an interesting exercise to make note of how many requests are made of us on any given Sunday morning. Do we feel rested and revived in the Lord when coming to church or do we feel overwhelmed?

I would venture to say it is somewhat seasonal based on individuals and what is happening in their lives. Sometimes we are energized by all the activity; sometimes it discourages us.

Maybe we could find a way to alternate roles based on our seasons. When we are on top of things and feeling empowered we could serve more, and when life is difficult to balance we could be given a guilt-free sabbatical from our church roles — but not attendance.



Rashional Extras…Unresolved issues

Unresolved issues in our lives prevent us from being at peace and doing our best in our work and being our best in relationships with others.

There is no Sunday School answer for how to deal with unresolved issues but when I’m faced with an unresolved issue, I remove myself if need be and get alone with God. I pray it out. For me, there is no other way to deal with it.

I may take steps such as writing a letter or making notes to follow up with whomever may be involved but never do I move forward until I have bathed it in prayer. Prayer offers me the peace I need and the resolve from Scripture through the leading of the Holy Spirit to wait on God until I know that my next move is truly His next move for me.

Years ago, while preaching through the book of Philippians, I was working diligently through Philippians 4:10–13 (I highly encourage that you read through these verses a few times before reading on) while at the same time facing internal struggles of a personal and professional nature when the Holy Spirit turned the light on so brightly for me that I couldn’t see and I was gently allowed to remain still long enough to absorb the truth of Paul’s “secret” as he calls it.

The secret of being content in all circumstances was just that, a secret. I needed to discover the answer before doing anything else. The answer to the secret is prayer. Certainly there is much more in the details of this truth but the heart of it is found in prayer whereby I came to know and connect all that was taking place on my behalf via God.

I recalled how in Hebrews 4 the Scripture teaches Christ is at the right hand of the Father interceding for me. In Romans 8, I know the Holy Spirit is communicating to the Father on my behalf when I am unable to pray or pray rightly. Philippians 4:6–7 tells us that the Father quiets our anxiety with His peace that passes all understanding.

My conclusion was the same as Paul’s as he states in verse 13 of Chapter 4 that he/I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. To God be the glory.

Pastor Greg Walker
First Baptist Church, Helena

The best evidence of character is not rule keeping but building and maintaining healthy relationships. We often assume that relationship building is easier for people with extroverted personalities. I am less sure of that than I used to be. It is easier to convey the image of caring as an extrovert and when our personality projects warmth, but building and maintaining relationships require effort and intentionality regardless of the personality type. I wish I had learned this earlier in life.

Gary Fenton

Leaders and entrepreneurs are measured by the results they produce, not the amount of tasks they accomplish.

Michael Hyatt
Author and productivity expert

If you’ve stopped growing as a leader, you’ve stopped leading well. But often, the leaders who have stopped growing don’t realize it’s happened. After all, the people who lack self-awareness are never aware they lack it. Sadly, too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading [and] they become leaders in title only.

Signs that you have stopped growing include: you prefer answers to questions; you sift through evidence only to back up your existing opinion; you spend most of your time doing what you like; your expertise has started working against you; and you’ve surrounded yourself with people like you.

Carey Nieuwhof

Praise and worship isn’t a substitute for service. But praise goes hand-in-glove with service. In fact, we may praise God best while we serve others in our world, exalting the name of the One who sent us.

Pastor Michael J. Brooks
Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster