Saturday, August 24, 2013

You'll Get What You Give

"Anything worth having is worth working for."

"You get out of life what you put into it."

I've heard these cliches - and others like them - all my life. I may have even used them a time or two urging my college students to place higher value on hard work. But, increasingly, I see the need to be reminded that these same "life" principles are even more important when applied to our spiritual life.

As a youth minister's and soon-to-be preacher's wife, I am sensitive (perhaps, overly sensitive) to comments like,"I just don't get anything out of church." or "I just don't feel like I'm growing spiritually here." It's hard not to get snarky and ask the obvious, "Well, what are you putting into your church or your spiritual growth?" (Yeah, being a preacher's wife is NOT going to be an easy role for me.)

(Side note: I know this post is not going to make me any friends. If you're already feeling uncomfortable, you should probably use the back button in the top left corner and just forget you ever stopped by this post.)

Many people leave a church - or just stop going to church at all - claiming they're not "getting anything" from it. I have a couple of things to say about that (Side note: I have to speak my peace now before I'm "officially" a preacher's wife and have to don the big hat and sit on the second pew "Amen!"-ing my dear husband while silently praying my boys don't do anything worthy of a call from the Pastor-Parrish Committee during the Sunday activities). 

Here goes...

First, worship is not about YOU - worship is about HIM. The point of worship is to acknowledge the Creator of all the universe and His goodness - not for you to come get a weekly "fix" or emotion-filled "high" because of some flashy production or praise music. If that happens, fantastic! Lift those hands and let the tears flow - He will rejoice in your praise and be glad you have entered into His presence if your worship is authentic. But your worship should also be daily, hourly, really, each minute as He reveals Himself to you in your surroundings - not just at 11 a.m. Sunday. 

Second, you will "get" from your church what you put into it. So if you're struggling, maybe it's time to really evaluate what you're putting into it. If you're just attending church on Sunday (at best), but not plugged into a Sunday School class, small group, prayer group, mission-focused efforts or other activities, what do you really expect? Growth can't happen in one hour one day a week. If you only tended a garden an hour a week, it would never yield a return. So, seriously. Why would you honestly expect the same of your relationship with The Lord?

If you're struggling with your church's style of worship, prayerfully consider approaching your church leadership with your concerns and inquire about how you help bring about change. If you can't find a Sunday School class that fits your "needs" - prayerfully consider starting one. There may be others looking for the same style of teaching you desire. If you can't find a small group/prayer group that meets your needs - prayerfully consider starting one. Everyone needs accountability and small groups are a perfect environment for that. If you want to be involved in more mission-related activities - prayerfully consider organizing them. There is no greater way to grow your own spiritual life than to feed that of others. If your kids aren't going regularly to their small group or activities - make them (or don't blame us when they act like hoodlums. Just sayin'.). 

"There are too many opportunities for growth on our calendar," said no preacher or church staff member EVER. But, please note the PRAYERFULLY CONSIDER before each action. If He is guiding your new opportunities, you can be confident He will bless them and they will flourish.

For those of you still reading and not vowing to never speak to me again, can we agree it's time to stop making excuses and blaming others for our lack of spiritual growth? After all, that's why it's a PERSONAL relationship with Christ (Can I get an "AMEN!).

I feel strongly about this for two reasons:

1. See paragraphs above about being a youth minister's and soon-to-be preacher's wife.

2. I've been there. I've been the "complainer" - the explorer looking for something more exciting and more emotional to get my fix. My spiritual growth began when I quit making worship and church about ME and what I wanted/needed/liked - and turned my heart to HIM and what He wants/needs/likes from me. When we fix our eyes on Him and His greatness - and for me, His amazing grace because I am such a wreck - nothing should overwhelm our hearts to the point of all-out worship and adoration.

Stepping down from my soap box and here's to hoping we can still be friends...