I enjoy reading the insights of pastors and others who live in other cultures in different parts of the world. I really appreciated this fresh and thoughtful article by Chopo Mwanza, the pastor of Faith Baptist Church Riverside in Kitwe, Zambia, partly because the American church can easily become its own self-preoccupied island where we either love or hate what’s familiar to us, and fail to see what God’s own cross-cultural and trans-cultural Word has to say to us in every place and time. —Randy Alcorn
By Chopo Mwanza
Every local church is comprised of a diverse group of people who have been radically transformed by the power of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. These diverse people have no reason to live and work together, let alone care for each other—and yet, they choose to live in love and unity together, to the praise and glory of the Lord’s name.
Healthy local churches make a powerful and attractive testimony to a watching world. This means that every member has to be devoted to building others up. In another article, I discuss four types of church member that don’t build up the church.
This article discusses six types of members that do build up the church.
Attending is the most basic way members build each other up. It’s the most obvious way to show commitment to the body. There’s something encouraging about knowing a brother or sister is simply going to be present at a church service, and you are going to worship God together.
The writer of Hebrews tells the believers to “stir one another up to love and good deeds” and to “encourage one another.” How are they to do this? By “not forsaking the assembling of the believers” (Heb. 10:23–25). You cannot build others up if you’re not meeting with them regularly and faithfully. It’s therefore no wonder that those who are regularly absent from the gathering often stagnate in their faith or become members who primarily grumble and complain.
Dear church member, church meetings are not about you or your convenience. Build others up by faithful attendance.
Consider Paul’s words about Tychicus in Colossians 4: “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts” (Col. 4:8). Why does he send his friend? To encourage the Colossians. We should follow Paul’s model.
The encouraging member commends, recommends, praises, thanks, comforts, urges, supports, and compliments other members. We often think of encouraging as merely giving praise, like a spectator in the terraces. However, biblical encouragement is more than that; it’s a fellow teammate urging you to get to work.
Furthermore, encouragement is not mere flattery. It’s not just being nice or telling people what they want to hear. Rather, true encouragement is honest and sincere. It commends those who serve well, and it also urges those who are struggling in their walk with the Lord. Such kind of member is a great blessing to the body. Strive to be one.
Churches are full of sinful people, which means church members sin against each other. This poses a challenge to the unity of the church, and it requires members to confront one another in love and gentleness.
The confronting member is the opposite of a gossip and slanderer. They obey the charge of Scripture to confront and restore people who are living in sin (Matt. 18:15–18, Gal. 6:1–2). What motivates the confronting member is not just that someone’s sin has offended them but that the Lord is offended by sin—particularly sin that is unresolved and left to fester and grow (1 Cor. 5). The confronting member confronts out of love for God and love for other believers.
I’ve always been struck by Samuel’s statement to David: “Far be it from me that I may sin against you by not praying for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).
We have a responsibility to pray for each other. The best church members are devoted to prayer. They’ve learned to depend on God so they highly value praying to him. Typically, praying members learn to talk less to people and more to God about people. They’re a church’s unsung heroes. If prayer drives the church, then the praying member is essential to the health and growth of the church.
Attendance is necessary, but members should do more than just attend. They should serve. They should “do the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). They use their gifts to serve God and other members, building up the church in the process.
Great encouragement comes from knowing you’re not the only one on the team. Great comfort comes from knowing you have teammates fighting with you and encouraging you as you go. People who are able to but don’t serve in the church tend to discourage the rest of the body.
Patience is a vitally important both for the individual believer and the congregation as a whole. After all, the Christian life isn’t a sprint but a marathon. Our walk with the Lord is a process, and we won’t noticeably grow over night.
All this means we have to learn to endure with each other’s weaknesses and shortcomings. We have to learn to forgive without holding grudges and disciple one another with all patience. A patient member graciously puts up with other people’s failures. They realize that no church is perfect—and as a result, they are joyfully patient. A church with patient members is a church where members confront one another, encourage one another, confess sin to one another, and forgive each other.
Dear church member, pursue these qualities in your own life and encourage them in others. Pray for yourself and others. Pray that you will build up the church as faithful and patient members who attend, encourage, confront, pray, and serve. This builds up the church of Christ.
This article was originally posted at 9Marks.org and is used with permission of the author.