How to Stay in the Same Church for 30 Years
“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Dorsey and Barbara. Loren and Tammy. Doug and Debbie. Glen and Norene. Ray and Nancy. I have been blessed to witness many individuals and couples remain in the same church for 30, 40 and even 50 years. How can a regular church member remain in the same church for such a meaningful amount of time? Great question!
If the members of the Ephesus church were church members one day and not the next, or skipped around from church to church, how would they have been included in the “glory in the church” by honoring the Lord? They couldn’t. Something about long-term commitment resonates with the Lord.
Charles Colsen described the church with these words: “Biblically the church is an organism not an organization—a movement, not a monument. It is not a part of the community; it is a whole new community. It is not an orderly gathering; it is a new order with new values, often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society.”
Yes, the church is a local body of believers, the bride of Christ, and His building. It is comprised of sinful human beings who have been “called out” from being like this world. Unity, working together, and getting along for any amount of time can be challenging!
Attorney Bryan Likins tweeted: “Most people want extraordinary careers, ministries, marriages, & kids. But they’re only willing to put in ordinary effort!” Very true.
Here are several Bible truths that help in long-term relationships.
Be a Good Forgiver.
Speaking to the church and relating church life to relationships, Colossians 3:13 instructs, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Since Christ forgave us of all our sin, we can forgive others. The depth of sin, the pain it caused, or the trouble it started can and should be forgiven. Forgiveness can be granted – even before another person confesses and asks forgiveness. If the potential of personal harm persists, please get to safety. Forgiveness does not mean to put yourself in a position to be hurt again, nor does it mean that trust is automatically restored.
Forgiveness is the ability to look at the person and hold no hatred or animosity in your heart over the head of that person. I like how William Arthur Ward described forgiveness. He said, “Forgiveness is a funny thing—it warms the heart and cools the sting.” It certainly does your heart good to not have negative emotions every time you see a fellow church member, family member or neighbor.
Pointing at others and saying “He is why I no longer go to church” is lessened when we choose to be good forgivers.
Fine Tune your Forgetter.
An old Chinese Proverb speaks truth in saying: “For the sake of one good action a hundred evil ones should be forgotten.” Speaking of God’s choosing to not remember our sins, Hebrews 8:12 declares, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” And again, Hebrews 10:17 says, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
The omniscient, all-knowing God chooses to not remember. When we allow our minds to dwell on hurts, pain, or possible wrongs, it changes our perception of the people around us. While we may never forget, we can choose to no longer remember. Life happens. People will purposefully and accidentally hurt us. When we say we “forgive” and then continue to think about it, we have not truly forgiven. Forgetting is choosing not to constantly dwell on the unfulfilled expectations we place on others.
Sometimes the expectations violated are sins in the life of others and are true wrongs that have occurred. Other times, we have an expectation that we place on another that has nothing to do with sin, but merely our preference for them. Anytime our real or perceived expectations of others are violated, we have the potential to remember, dwell on it, and let that thought damage our relationship.
This does not have to happen. While most of us are trying to memorize Scripture and remember applying the Bible to our situations we are also in need of “fine tuning” our forgetter. Make a decision to forget.
Get with the Program.
Every church has a statement of faith in doctrine and a declarative purpose for its establishment. Most churches say something to the effect of “exalting the Lord, edifying believers, and evangelizing the lost. These are great mission purposes. These are foundational statements upon which the ministry is built. How these purposes are pursued in practical ways is where many differences are found between churches.
Some people say they want to see people saved. If that is true, that means new converts will then be baptized, discipled, and become part of the church. Any church fulfilling the above ministry purpose will grow in attendance. Numerical growth is a secondary benefit of fulfilling the churches mission statement.
Have you ever heard someone say “The church is getting too big?” How about this: “I want a smaller church.”? When Christians say statements like this, they are not only reflecting a selfish motive to either be comfortable or controlling of others (individual influence is lost when a church grows), but they are also demonstrating that they have left the mission purpose of the church and are now following their own mission purpose.
Get with the program and stay with the program of the local church. There are various methods of evangelism that work well and are acceptable to God. There are various ways to get together and see new converts grow in discipleship. Exalting Christ is evident in seeing people saved and those saved becoming more like Jesus, not merely on outside appearances, but also in attitude and affections of the heart. Utilizing sports, or spoons (for meals), studies, or social media are all ways that the Word can be imparted to people. It is a matter of preference and style – then of obedience to the purpose statement to get the job done.
Those who refuse to update with fresh ideas as the church updates should still be driving model T’s and reading paper pages in books by candlelight if that is really how they feel.
Pastors come and go. Church members come and some move away. “Church is always in transition” one pastor aptly stated. Adjust expectations. Embrace opportunity. Find an old, new, or similar way to get the same thing accomplished: Exalting Jesus, edifying believers, and evangelism of the lost.
Make the Decision to Love.
Love is a choice. Not to love is also a choice. Paul said in Colossians 3:14, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” The mark of maturity in relationships with others is the ability to continue to love others. No. Matter. What. Charity towards others is God’s will for your life. Whenever you find yourself keeping a knit-pick list for other people watch out- your love for others is waining.
As Peter summarizes this teaching in 1 Peter 4:8 he says, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Overlooking the faults, sins, and expectations on others is the only way to see long-term spiritual and numerical growth.
Assimilation of new believers is such an important factor in the length of time a long-term member will have in the church. If a person accepts the newer members, encourages, edifies, and helps the new members feel welcome, the long-term member is then fulfilling part of his purpose in being a church member. If a long-term member reminisces constantly “about the good old days” when he knew everyone by name, his living in the past is preventing him from making a difference in the present. Determine to know the new folks and accept them as much as a long term member. Both parties have made the same commitment to God and each other.
Most churches that have had consistent leadership and faithful members who are good at these 4 principals have grown both in spirit and in numbers. They have stuck together through good and difficult times. They have been blessed by God.
Could you stay in the same church for 30 years? I challenge you to give it a try! You will not be able to do it without implementing these 4 truths into your life. With God’s help – you can. You can remain in the same church for a meaningful amount of time.