Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to Form Community

Leslie Basham: It's sad when valuable gifts are left unopened. Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God has given you one or more spiritual gifts. This is not just a natural talent; it's not just a natural ability. It's a spiritual gift that God has given you as part of the body of Christ, and you need to find where you can exercise that gift in the context of your church.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It's Wednesday, August 10th. Our culture craves community, but it's looking for it in the wrong places. We'll find out how to develop deep connections as Nancy continues in a series called, Who Needs the Church?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As I was working on this series, I was talking with some dear friends who love the Lord and love His kingdom. We were just talking about the church and we kind of got into a real gut level honest conversation about some of the challenges of the church.

One person, one of my friends, got really honest at one point and said something like this. He said, "I know all that stuff about the church being a family and our being brothers and sisters, but it seems sometimes the relationships we have at church are so shallow." He said, "I feel like I have more relationship, more real relationship, with my lost neighbor." That's a real honest commentary on the church and on many of our churches.

It suggests to me that it's not enough for us to go and sit in a service one hour a week, important as that is. But we need more than that in order to cultivate community, to cultivate authentic relationships in the body of Christ in our local churches. So I want to give just a few simple suggestions here about getting plugged in to the life of the church--not just being there for services on the weekends, not just greeting one another when you are there, but some suggestions beyond that.

First, I would say it's important to get involved in some sort of small group where you can develop closer relationships than you can with 300 or 3,000 people at your church service on the weekend. Now your church may not be set up with small groups per se, but maybe there's a Sunday School class or there's a Bible study or there's a body life group. But get involved in some sort of smaller group where you can establish closer relationships.

It doesn't have to be that everyone in that group is in the same season of life. In fact, I think this is really valuable. One of the things that I think is not wise, in my opinion, about the way some churches are structured today is everything is oriented around the same age, the same season of life and the same interest.

So you have all the young married couples together, you have all the singles together, you have all the high school students together. I'm not saying there isn't a place for that, but we do need opportunity to interact with those who are in a different season of life. I need the older folks in our church and they need me. I need the kids; I need the young people.

Sometimes those young moms . . . they're the ones my heart really goes out to. There's that season of life where they're just going to be tired. It's going to be hard. Those young moms need some older moms whose children are grown to come alongside and say, "You're going to make it," and to just encourage them. So get involved in some sort of small group.

Some of you attend perhaps what have been called "mega-churches," these humungous churches that have tons of programs. There's some advantages to those churches--there are some strengths; there are some opportunities that perhaps aren't possible in smaller churches. But I want to tell you, if you're in a very large church, one of the dangers is that you can just blend into the woodwork. You can just get lost through the cracks, and you can go there on Sundays and no one knows who you are or whether you're there.

I was at one of those churches recently. It's a church where there's a pastor who really loves the Lord and preaches the Word of God and has an active small group ministry that I think is so important. But I know there are some people who only go to that church on Sunday mornings or Saturday night for that service.

I said to myself, "If one of those people who's only there one service a week and they aren't plugged in anywhere else in that church, who is going to know if that person is having an affair, if their life is falling apart? Who's going to come alongside and help them grow?" You need to get in a smaller group community of believers.

That doesn't mean you have to attend a small church. But if you're going to be in a large church . . . and by the way you can go to a small church and not really plug into people's lives. But either way, you need to make sure that there's a smaller group network of relationships that you've established. You need that community. We need the obligation, the accountability, the relationship, the fellowship, the responsibility, the discipline, the structure for growth. We need that, and that can come from smaller group settings.

Then as you plug into your church, ask the Lord to show you where you should serve in the life of that church. God has given you one or more spiritual gifts. This is not just a natural talent; it's not just a natural ability. It's a spiritual gift that God has given you as part of the body of Christ, and you need to find where you can exercise that gift in the context of your church.

We took a poll recently on ReviveOurHearts.com about people's attitudes about the church. It was interesting how many people said something like this: "There are so few people in the church doing all the work and those few are exhausted, and the ones who aren't involved aren't getting the blessing." It's the 80-20 principle--80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It shouldn't be that way in the church.

Romans 12 says: "We have different gifts according to the grace given us" (NIV, verse 6). These are God-given gifts for the edification of the body. Paul says, "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If his gift is serving, let him serve. If it's teaching, let him teach. If it's encouraging, let him encourage. If it's contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If his gift is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it's showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully" (NIV, verses 6-7).

Find out how God has gifted and equipped you, and then look for areas in your local church where you can plug in. If you don't know, ask your pastor. Ask one of the church staff. Ask your small group leader to pray with you. Don't just jump in at the first opportunity. Don't just say yes to everything that comes along. God didn't intend for you to fill every post that needs to be filled in the church. What happens is this is how we get our overworked, exhausted people who are fed up with church because they say yes to everything, but it wasn't what God really wanted them doing.

I met somebody recently who was new in her area and she said, "I'm just praying right now and asking God to show me where He wants me to plug in in the life of our community." When you use your gifts in your church, that's when you experience the difference between going to church and being the Church. You become a functioning part of that body.

Then as you go to church, put yourself and your family under the spiritual authority, the spiritual direction, the spiritual protection of the spiritual leadership of your church: the pastor, the elders, the deacons they may be called in some of your churches. It's not so important what they're called as that there are spiritual leaders and you as an individual and your family need to be under the spiritual protection and covering of the leadership of your church.

You say, "Why do you make such a point of that?" I'll tell you why. At Revive Our Hearts, we get many, many, many cries, desperate cries for help. They are in very troubled, difficult marriages, life situations. They don't know what to do; their life is a mess. They email us, or they write us and they say, "Can you please help me?"

Now we pray for those people; we send some words of encouragement, perhaps a resource that we think will be a blessing to them. But what we try to say to those people is go to your church. Go to your pastor; go to your elders. Some of these women are in very difficult marriage situations. And what concerns me in some cases as I read their letter is there doesn't seem to be any connection to a local body. And I say, "Where is your church? Where is your pastor? Where are the elders in your church?"

I'm not blaming the pastor or the church or the elders. I'm saying so many people have not connected their lives into the life of a local church. Then when a crisis comes, they don't have any network. They're writing to a total stranger at Revive Our Hearts and pouring their hearts out. I'm glad they're writing, but we cannot do for you what should be happening in the context of your local church.

People have said to me, "The leadership in my church won't do anything." I say, "Go to them anyway." If people start going to the leaders and asking them to fulfill the areas that they're responsible to fulfill, it may motivate them to get into God's Word and learn how to fulfill that responsibility.

Then let me remind you that we have a responsibility to support the ministry of the church financially. You need to be giving financially to your local church. There are at least two reasons for this. One is that according to the Scripture, you have a Biblical responsibility to make sure that those who minister the Word of God to you have their material and financial needs met.

Your pastor and his family should not have to be scrimping and scraping to make ends meet. They don't have to be the wealthiest people in the church. So many pastors I know are humble servants who are working hard, long hours for not huge remuneration. But you need to make sure that their needs are met.

We need not only to make sure that their needs are met, but in the New Testament we have this wonderful model that believers brought their resources to the apostles. We read this in Acts chapter 4 [:32-37]. The apostles distributed those resources, those funds, to those who had need. You see, I may not always know who really has a need in the church. I may not know where people are hurting or somebody's lost their job or a widow on a limited income who's had a major bill come up.

But it's the responsibility of the leadership of the church to know that, to be in connection with the sheep in that flock. So as I give to the ministry of the local church those responsible of the leadership of the church are distributing those funds to people who have need and to God's work in that community and through missions efforts around the world.

I thank the Lord for people who support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, who support other para-church ministries that exist to serve God's people. But I want to say to you, you should not be giving to Revive Our Hearts if you're not first giving to your local church. You know the great thing is that I find as I give to the ministry of my local church and then I give to other ministries, the more I give, the more God enables me to give.

If we would just be giving according to God's way, just giving the minimum of the 10% that I believe is like the starting place for Christian giving, then we would find that the needs of the church would be met, the needs of these ministries would be met, individual believer's needs would be met as we give ourselves. Part of giving ourselves is giving our financial and material resources to minister to the lives of others.

So plug into the life of your local church. Don't just be a pew-warmer, a bench-sitter, a spectator, somebody on the sidelines. Get out on the field; get involved in the game. Get involved in what's going on. Don't go to church and sit there with your arms folded and say, "Now minister to me. Now entertain me. Now make me feel good." That's selfish. Get involved.

Give yourself, give your heart, give your efforts, give your time, give your prayers, give your resources. Plug in; get your life involved. Don't sit there and criticize everybody who's not doing what they should be doing. You do what God wants you to do and you'll be blessed, and His church will be blessed as well.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us find some ways to get connected and involved with a local church. One of the ways is to meet with a small group. Many groups like this started earlier this year when we launched a new study called Seeking Him.

A woman named Judy wrote us after going through this study. She said, "During our Seeking Him Bible study our group of ladies displayed more honesty and genuine change than during any other Bible study we've done in the last 7 years. I just wanted to thank you for your heart and your ministry in the lives of women."

If you have a small group and would like to find out more about Seeking Him, just visit our website at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also call 1-800-569-5959.

When is it right to leave a church and find another one? We'll hear what Nancy has to say tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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