This picture brings up a few good points. Though I don’t agree with it completely, it opens my eyes to the fact that when it comes to apathy, it’s not always the fault of the church leadership. It does matter that a person goes to a Bible-believing and teaching church. It does matter where the sheep get fed, and that we worship God in spirit and in truth. We need that good teaching and doctrine. But if the people are not moving, it’s not always the leadership that is the cause. Yes, many times the leadership frustrate evangelism efforts, but this frustration can come from stubborn church members.
I once sat down and had a great conversation with a pastor from a denomination I do not normally attend or fellowship with. He was young, vibrant, and had a heart to see God’s Kingdom grow and flourish. His desire was to be the best shepherd to his flock he can possibly be, and it showed. But his congregation didn’t want to move. They were perfectly content just attending church as long as it is less than an hour each Sunday. They had been apathetic for generations and in many ways they reached atrophy. Some pushed back the pastor’s every effort to advance the church while others were fearful to move forward for many different reasons. Most of them liked their space and were comfortable where they were at. He even said a guy told him, “We got a good thing here Pastor, don’t ruin it for us.” There were some, though very few, of their body that were excited about moving forward, and were ready to get to work.
Pins and Needles
When church members have been asleep for so long, some of the body of Christ are numb and have no feeling. It is written that the life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). When blood flow to different parts of the body is cut off or frustrated, those parts get numb, immobile, and useless. If it is a leg, you cannot walk; an arm, you cannot grab or hold. If not dealt with quickly, it can lead to many health problems, and at worse — amputation, where those parts are literally cut off from the rest of the body.
In other church members, the blood is starting to flow and the intense pain of pins and needles has started, but the body parts are afraid to move. You know that feeling when your leg is asleep and you are afraid to walk or even stand for that matter. The intense pain lasts minutes, and there is nothing you can do but ride it out. Same with church members and leadership that are waking up. It hurts. It’s painful. It can be scary. Things seem so uncertain. But it is necessary for it to happen. The good part is that in the waking up — it doesn’t last forever. It is for a moment.
Those other parts of the body that are ready. The needles are gone, and it’s time to get moving. You know the saying, “Poop of get off the pot.” These are the parts of the body that have rested long enough. The leadership and congregation see lights at the end of the pins and needles, the pain is gone. Time to get walking, there are things to get done.
The Parts No One Ever See – The Core
But, do you know what parts of the body never fall asleep? The core. The vital organs like the heart, liver, and brain. Everything from skin to organs in the torso never have pins and needles. Why? Because all the blood flows freely and never gets impeded. I encouraged that young pastor to focus on those who wanted to move and grow. I asked him to name just five people in his church that he could rely on, never complain, and do what you ask them to do without fail. “Focus on the core and in turn their lives and stories would impact those around them.” In time he began to see those who were asleep show signs of life and positive activity among the body. They were not only influential under their own roof, but the entire town as well.
Two Sides to Every Coin
There are two sides to every coin, and this is no different. Apathy in the church can come from two different sources: the leadership and/or the congregation. As Evangelists, we must encourage church leadership to take the helm and sail the ship into the uncharted waters of outreach, and also to encourage the parts of the body to start to move and feel the necessary pins and needles when the shepherd and leadership are ready to get out to do the work of the ministry.
Now That I am in leadership myself
A perpetual saying among evangelists is that we belong to, “Club Frustration.” Frustration is what we sometimes feel, but in every sense of the word it means to prevent (a plan or attempted action) from progressing, succeeding, or being fulfilled. This thwarting of the gospel can come from shepherds as well as the sheep — both sides of the coin.
For the past nineteen years I have been on the side of tails; maybe even “chasing my tail” so to speak. But now I have this unique opportunity to flip my coin and land on heads for a while. What does this mean for me in this new role of Church Elder? I get to experience what it is like being on the other side of the complaints I’ve had all those years. It means that I personally, must take that helm and lead the congregation into these uncharted waters. I must do the work of the office of Evangelist and equip the saints for the work of ministry and edify the entire body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11–16).