Sometimes we talk so abstractly about “love” that we fail to practice it well in normal life. At least, I know that is true of me.
So, I thought it’d be edifying for me to knock out a few very concrete and practical ways that I can actually love my church family in real life and not just in the sentimental (but ineffective) part of my brain.
Go to Church 95% of the Time
You don’t avoid being with people you love. If a dad avoids his kids, he has a deficient love. If a woman never wants to be with her husband, she has a deficient love. Lack of presence reveals a lack of love.
On the other hand, intentional presence reveals love (you seek to be with people you want to bless) and provides the basic foundation from which we can obey the “one anothers” that God commands us to do. Good luck trying to serve (Gal. 5:13), forgive (Col. 3:13), be patient with (Eph. 4:2), encourage (1 Thess. 5:11), stir up (Heb. 10:24), care for (1 Cor. 12:25), or sing to one another (Eph. 5:29) without being in the same room.
So, love your church family by showing up. Arrange your life so that you only miss church on the rarest of occasions (3%-5% of the year). Otherwise, you’re not loving them well.
Get to Church 15 Minutes Early (Or At Least on Time)
I understand that getting to church on time can be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean we should be OK with it. We won’t likely show up late to movies, restaurant reservations, ball games, concerts, weddings, or other events we deem important or enjoyable. So, why would we become OK with regularly showing up late to worshiping the One we know to be infinitely more valuable than all those things combined.
Even more, though, I’d suggest you love your church by not just showing up to worship on time, but 15 minutes early so you can be a warm face to greet visitors, make them feel welcome, answer any questions they have, and possibly offer to sit with them. Imagine the love visitors would feel when they walk into church 10 minutes before it starts and they were embraced by believers looking out for them and ready to receive them. Pretty powerful, I’d say.
Worship Leaning Forward, Not Leaning Back
The gathered worship of God’s people is not a spectator sport where you watch the pros in action, but a team sport where you, along with everyone present, actively fix your eyes on Christ, sing your praises, pray your prayers, hear His Word, and magnify His name. So, love your church family by actively participating in every part of service: pray sincerely, listen to Scripture reading & the sermon hungrily, and sing lustily. Nod or say your “Amens” to the prayers or preaching. Tattoo your Bible with notes that you want your future self to read. Sing in a way that puts college football fight songs to shame. When you walk into your place of worship, gear up and get ready for the glorious activity of receiving all God has for you.
Stick Around Church (At Least) 15 Minutes After Service
Now, if going to church is only about what you get out of it, then by all means, book it to your car as fast as you can because there likely isn’t anything prepared for you after the service is done. But, if you’re interested in being used by God to build up your brothers and sisters, engage with non-believers or visitors, and find opportunities to bring the light of Christ to whomever God may have prepared for you, then stick around a solid 15 and keep your eyes and heart open.
Develop Friendships in Your Church
Friendship takes time, energy, & intention. What better people to befriend and cultivate deep friendships than the people in your local church family God has brought you to and with whom you are committed to love? Eat dinner with them. Drink wine and beer and coffee and whatever with them. Play board games, go on picnics, compete in sports with them. Building Christ-like friendships with people in your church will not only bless them and you, but it will build your church by weaving hearts together.
Give Lots of Money to Your Church
It is a father’s duty to provide for his family. It is your duty to, according to your means and cheerfulness, provide for your church family. Give generously and consistently to your church. Money keeps the lights on, the rent paid, the pastors/staff cared for so the church can continue to be cared for, taught, equipped, counseled, and loved by them. Be a cheerful giver to your local church. If you don’t, who will?
Respect, Follow, & Obey Your Pastors (and Other Established Leaders)
Assuming they’re leading you according to God’s Word, trust them, follow them, and support them. Don’t fall into the trap of making your functional pastors be those whose YouTube Channels or Podcasts you listen to, but the actual flesh and blood men God has gifted your church with. Podcast sermons are great. Big fan of having access to faithful preaching, but the men you hear through the Interwebs don’t know you, your family, your life, your strengths, or your sins. They can bless you with truth, but they are entirely unable to shepherd you. But, your local pastors can if you let them. So, in your heart, make sure your Podcast preachers are not your functional pastors, but your actual pastors are. Jesus has given them to you for your joy & growth (Ephesians 4:11). Trust them, obey them, see yourself as especially responsible to listen to them and bring joy to them. Remember, Hebrews 13:17 is still in the Bible. Go with the grain of God’s discipleship design.
Now, brothers and sisters, you’ve likely failed to love your church in one or more or all of these ways. That’s important to recognize so you can repent and get back to following the way of Jesus. But, make sure to see your shortcomings and sins in light of the cross. God has atoned for the sins of your lovelessness through Christ. He paid for even these sins. By all means, see them, repent of them, and bury them in the sea of atoning blood so you can, from there, seek to love your church as Christ loves them in the largest and smallest of ways.
So, fulfill the most basic duties of a family member: be present, be intentional, & love with action instead of sentiment.