Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Plugging In

Dannah Gresh: Wouldn't it be sad if someone gave you an incredibly valuable gift but you never opened it? Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: 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.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for February 6, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

All this week, Nancy’s been showing us the importance of church. It’s all a part of a series called, “Who Needs the Church?”

Let me summarize where we've been so far. When God adopted you into His family, you became a part of the Church. Now, there's Church with a capital "C." That means all believers throughout all of history. There's also church with a lowercase "c." That's your church, your local body of believers, the congregation with which you worship God. Scripturally, you're part of the capital "C" big Church. But you also need to be a part of the little "c" congregation church. Your church is not perfect, and it never will be, but it's still important that you get connected. If you missed any of this week’s programs, be sure to go back and listen to them to find out how important it is. You can find them on the Revive Our Hearts app or at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now today, we are going to turn our heart toward practical suggestions for how to plug into the life of your local church. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Let me just start with something that seems so basic, but it's something that a lot of people are missing today, and that is: be there. Attend. Go to the services. Attend faithfully. Now some wonder and have raised the question, "I can get good teaching a lot of other places, so why go? I'm just going to a building. I'm hearing some message and maybe not a message as good as I could hear on radio or television."

Listen! Radio can dispense information, but they can't replace community. We need to hear the Word together. We need to live it together. We need to walk together in our faith. You need those at your church. They need you.

For you to be absent or for you to hit-and-miss in your attendance is like a marriage or a family where people don't ever see each other. They're not ever with each other. They don't ever sit down for meals together. They're scattered. What kind of a relationship can you develop as a family if you're never together?

You're guaranteed to have problems. It doesn't mean that you are not a family, but you are going to have problems. And you for sure won't have intimacy if you don't share time together.

You end up if you're not connected to a local church, if you're not attending, you're going to end up isolated, alone, bitter. And I would say, "Go when you feel like it, and go when you don't feel like it."

I'm blessed now and have been through all of my life to be plugged in to local churches that really love Christ and honor His Word. They are not perfect, any of them, because I'm there, among other reasons. But they are churches that honor God and His Word. I'm so thankful for that.

I will tell you, my flesh being what it is: there are many, many Sunday mornings when I wake up and I think, Ohhh, go to church? this morning? I'm tired. I've had a long week. I've been traveling. There have been times I've been very tempted, and sometimes when I actually have given in to the temptation, to just stay home this particular time.

I'm telling you, when I get up, get dressed, go to church, put myself under the authority of the preaching of the Word of God, and get with the people of God; no matter how I felt going in to it, I am always glad I went. I come away saying, "I'm so thankful for God's people. I'm thankful for the ministry of the Word." I'm ministering the Word to others, and I need to go to church to be a worshiper, to be a repenter, to be under the preaching of the Word of God. Go when you feel like it; go when you don't.

Let me just say a word here about the danger of church hopping—get a piece of this here and a piece of that there. Going to this church for this program and this church for this program. Or, every couple of years you change churches. A lot of people are restless and discontent. What happens when you change churches quickly like that for no sound biblical reason . . . It's a lot like trading in your mate for a different model. You take your problems with you. What you usually do is exchange one set of problems for another.

So find a place where God wants you to be. Get plugged in. Unless God leads you out of there for biblical reasons (and we'll talk about that before the end of this series), stay there. Be there. Attend faithfully.

Don't just sit and spectate at church.

Now, assuming you're going to church, how do you go to church? Well, can I just say, don't go to just sit and spectate? Don't go to just park your body in a seat on Sunday morning and listen to the program, spectate, let everybody on the platform entertain you, make sure the preacher is a scintillating, spellbinding communicator, make sure the music is something you can really enjoy like going to a concert, and you just sit back and enjoy.

Now there is a sense in which we let all of that wash and bathe us with the Word of God, but don't go to just sit and spectate. Go to meet with God in the company of His people. Go expecting to hear from God. And realize that as you go, you're not only going to meet with God—because you can do that in your bedroom—but what you can't do in your bedroom is meet with God in the company of His people, in the company of His body.

It's not just those who are gathered in your big or little church on Sunday; it's those who are gathered all around the world who are worshiping the Lord with you joining their hearts together. I love this picture on Sundays (and I know we have members of our body that believe Saturday is the day when they should worship, so it would include those Christian brothers and sisters as well) . . . Whenever it is when you worship at your church, picture that all throughout the day there are churches in different time zones around the world who are meeting together in the name of Christ and you are part of that great union and communion of saints. So go to meet with God, and go to meet with God's people.

Go to be a blessing. Go to church to serve, to give. Then I know somebody is thinking, But I don't know the people in my church, and no one reaches out to me. Church is so unfriendly. Well, it sounds kind of simple, but can I just say, "Walk up to somebody and say hello." Meet people! Greet people. Make the first move.

People think I'm outgoing, but I'm actually pretty introverted. It's hard for me to walk up to new people and introduce myself. I have to, well the Lord has to help me, but I know it's important so I do it. Introduce yourself, learn people's names. Over and over again in Paul's letters to the New Testament churches he says, "Greet one another." That could be considered a biblical command at least seven times in his letters.

Romans chapter 16, at the end of the book of Romans, Paul names people he wants to greet there. He says, "Greet Priscilla and Aquilla. They have been co-workers in my ministry for Christ Jesus. Greet my dear friend Epaenetus. He was the very first person to become a Christian in the province of Asia. Give my greetings to Mary who has worked so hard for your benefit. And then there are Andronicus and Junia, my relatives, who were in prison with me. Say hello to Ampliatus whom I love as one of the Lord's own children, and Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and beloved Stachys" (paraphrased verses 3–9). On and on and on and he ends with this word. Verse 16: "Greet each other in Christian love" (paraphrased).

In that one passage alone Paul greets twenty-six people by name. He knew about those people. Many of them he didn't just say their name, but he said something about them that he knew and appreciated about their service for Christ.

That speaks to me the importance of relationships in the body of Christ. It says that people are important. They matter to God. Their names are important. They need to matter to us. You can be sure all those people—Andronicus, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Epaenetus . . . you can be sure that all those people had needs spiritually. They all had rough edges, just as we do. There weren't any super-saints in that church in Rome any more than there are in your church or in mine.

Even when writing to the Corinthian church, riddled as that church was with conflicts and carnality and doctrinal confusion, Paul says at the end of 2 Corinthians 13, "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (v. 12). Greet each other. He doesn't say in this church that has humungous problems, "Quit the church or go find another church." He challenges these believers to deal with one another and to deal with these issues in genuine love and humility.

So when you go to church, don't wait for people to approach you and be friendly. Take the initiative; reach out; be friendly to others. Show an interest in them; show an interest in their children. Look for people who are there alone if you're there by yourself and feeling alone. Look for other singles or women who are married to unbelievers that don't go to church with them, for widows.

Take the initiative. Reach out and be friendly to others.

Proverbs 18 says: "A man who has friends does show himself to be friendly" (paraphrased, v. 24).

Dale Carnegie said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." So ask people questions: "How are you doing? Really, how are you doing? How can I pray for you?"

In my church there's a woman who comes up to me almost every Sunday, anytime I see her. Invariably she says to me, almost the first thing out of her mouth, "How can I pray for you?" And Cathy prays for me. She lives some distance away, so we don't see each other except on Sundays, but she prays for me. "How can I pray for you?" Pray for people, and pray with people and do it at church.

I tell you what, church would start to be a lot less like an organization and a lot more like an organism, like a functioning healthy body, if we would just stop and pray with each other. I look for opportunities when I go to church for God to bring people across my path who need a word of encouragement, who need somebody to pray with them. Not just brush past people you know like marbles clanking around in a big tin can just bumping up against each other. Get close to each other. Say, "How can I pray for you?"

Just in recent weeks I had the opportunity in my church to pray with a woman who has a debilitating physical condition, it's chronic. She's a young woman, and it puts a lot of pressure on her family. We just stopped there in the foyer of the church and prayed for her.

I had the chance not too long ago to pray with an expectant mother. She was just about due, and she is a mother of a lot of children, and she was exhausted. She was having a hard time late in this pregnancy, and we just stopped there in the aisle of the church and prayed for God's grace to be on her and on that baby during that week.

I had the chance a week or so ago to pray with another exhausted mom who's husband is going through a mid-life time where he's rethinking his career, and we just stopped and prayed. It wasn't long—just a matter of minutes.

Another woman said to me Sunday, "I need to talk to you. Can we talk?" So I called her on Sunday afternoon, and she poured out her heart about her son who's making some wrong choices, and she's heavy-hearted. And we prayed together. You say, "I'm not comfortable doing that." Well, you know what? You'll never get comfortable doing that until you start doing it. Just do it. You don't have to be eloquent; you don't have to be any great leader or teacher or super-saint. Just say, "Can I pray for you?" Just lift that person up to the throne of grace.

Other people . . . when you go to church, bless. Bless these moms with all these kids hanging on them. Encourage those moms. Tell them, "I'm so thankful for your heart for your family." Notice their children; bless their children as Jesus did. I try when I'm around other people's children to just put my hand on the shoulder of that child or to give those children a hug and to bless them in the name of Jesus.

Be the body. Greet one another; encourage one another; pray for each other; show genuine interest. Can you imagine if everyone would do that or if just even a lot of people would do that in our churches? You say, "I wish they would." You do it! Even if you're the only one in your church who does, do it. Reach out. Get beneath the surface.

Even between weekend services, set a goal to connect with at least one person from your church once each week during the week. There's nothing . . . I don't mean to be dogmatic about that, but that's just a simple little goal—a phone call or a lunch together or getting together with your kids. Set a goal to connect with somebody from your church once during the week so that we're breaching between weekends. We're ministering to each other.

You say, "I can't reach out to everybody." God didn't call you to reach out to everybody. Just reach out to the people God puts in your path, the people God puts in your aisle at church, the people God brings across your way. You be sensitive; go to be a blessing. And you know what? When you get home you'll say, "I got blessed. God blessed me because I reached out and blessed others."

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.

Those of us talking were involved in full-time Christian ministry and involved in our churches. 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, or there's a ministry group. It may be singing in the choir or on a praise team or teaching in the third grade Sunday school department where there are other teachers who would pray together. 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. I need those who are married. It's okay to mix single and married people together in the same group. It's okay to have a different age range. We can learn and grow together. It's part of being a family. We have different ages and seasons of life.

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. It's okay. This to shall pass"—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, v. 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, vv. 6–7).

I don't think that is an exhaustive list of the spiritual gifts. I think it is suggestive. There are others. 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.

Dannah: Those are just some practical suggestions from the host of Revive Our Hearts, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. This month at Revive Our Hearts we’re focusing on our horizontal relationships. This series on the church is kicking off that theme. And all month long, we’re encouraging you to study the "one anothers" of Scripture more carefully. To help you do that, our team has come up with an excellent month-long devotional called Living Out the One Anothers of Scripture. We'd love to send you a copy of this as our way of saying "thanks" when you contact us with a donation of any amount.

Now, as Nancy just mentioned, the first priority in your giving needs to be your local church. We don’t want to do anything that would take away from your giving to support your congregation. But if God leads you to give above and beyond your regular giving, if He leads you to give to help support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say "thank you" by sending you a copy of the devotional on the "one anothers" of Scripture. To give your gift, go to ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Now, when is it right to leave a church and find another one? We'll hear what Nancy has to say about that, tomorrow.

I’m Dannah Gresh, saying, “Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth challenges you to plug in to your church. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.