The first reason is poor leadershipthe failure of those whom God has called to lead, to lead well, to lead biblically, and to lead in an exemplary fashion. Many a church has found itself destroyed because leadership did not live up to biblical expectations.
Second, churches fail because of a lack of congregational support. All the leadership in the world can't lead folks who won't follow. Leaders must lead well, but they need people to follow well, too.
Today, by way of Hebrews 13:724, we want to look at the responsibility of membershipwhat it means for the person in the pew who hears and benefits from the ministry of a local assembly. If we're going to disciple the church to impact the world, every part of the body must be dynamically involved in the process. The church only develops properly when members play their part. If we fail to do and be what God has called us to do and be, we will never disciple the church or impact the world.
Relate properly to your leadership.
First of all, each member is to relate properly to the leadership of his or her church. That means three things: remember your leaders, obey your leaders, and greet your leaders.
Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you, considering the result of their conduct, and imitate their faith." The writer asks that you simply remember those who have led you. Don't take good leadership for granted; don't hold that lightly.
First Thessalonians 5:1213 says, "And we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work."
Again, hold quality leadership in highest esteem; value it tremendously. Why? You do so because good leadership is hard to come by!
I often work with churches looking for pastors. Some have been without pastors for years. I ask them, "What's the problem?"
They usually answer, "We're having trouble finding the right person."
What they're suggesting is leadership is hard to come by.
Don't take leadership for granted. If you've got elders, deacons, and pastors who are faithful to the Word, serve others, and don't compromiseremember them.
If you have received the Word of God through them, the Bible says: Don't take it lightly. Hold that type of leadership in highest esteem. Value it. Remember it.
The writer of Hebrews says we must also obey our leaders. Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."
Remember them and then obey them. This same concept is expressed when God tells us to obey him. It is expressed when Paul says the wife should obey her husband, and children are to obey their parents. There must be a chain of command in the family of God, marked by obedience.
We're not talking about blind obedience or dictatorial attitudes. In 1 Peter 5:3, the Bible is clear there is never to be any heavy-handed, dictatorial, ramming and jamming of the flock. On the other hand, there's not to be disrespect for leadership. Verse 17 uses two wordsobey and submitthat ask you to place yourself under authority. There is to be obedience, as long as what the leader asks of you is commensurate with the Word of Godeven if it's not your preference, or you wouldn't do it "that way."
One day, leaders will give an account for their actions. When I stand before God, he is going to say, "Evans, I entrusted 3,000 people to you to shepherd and oversee and to proclaim to them the Word. I'm going to analyze how faithful a pastor you were." And I will have to give an account.
Just in case you didn't know it, you'll be held accountable, too! The question for you on that day will be: "What kind of member were you?"
One reason you may not be receiving a blessing in your life is because you have a rebellious attitude. The text says such actions will be unprofitable for you. God says the responsibility of membership is to bring joy to leadership. So one of the most important questions of the church is not only, "Leaders, what have you done for me lately?" There is another question: "Members, what have you done for leaders lately?"
Along with remembering and obeying your leaders, Hebrews 13:24 says, "Greet all of your leaders."
We don't understand greeting in our contemporary culture. When we greet one another, we say, "Hi! How are you doing? Don't answerI'm in a hurry."
That's not how they greeted one another in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, when a Hebrew came upon a Hebrew, he would say, "Shalom." Shalom does not mean "peace" as we often use the word. When a Hebrew greeted another Hebrew with shalom, he or she meant "total wellness." They were saying, "How are you, over all?"
When the writer tells us to greet leaders, he wants us to express personal concern. We are to look out for the concerns of our leaders. We are to be an encouragement for their well-being.
Use your gifts.
Along with properly relating to leadership, each member of the church is responsible to use his or her God-given talents to serve the rest of the church, building up the body of Christ. Paul makes this absolutely clear in Ephesians 4. Beginning in verse 11, he writes, "He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints."
God has given the church staff to equip the body for works of service. There's no such thing as Christians who do not work. Just as you can't build a home without work, you can't build a church without work.
Notice Ephesians 4:1516: "But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects unto him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."
Paul relates the church to a human body. It has parts, and all the parts must work in order for the body to work. I have a torn cartilagea little tear in my left knee. I can't jog anymore, I can't play tennis anymore, and I can't beat the men in basketball anymore. One little tear controls my ability to function in a lot of other arenas.
Do you know you only have to have one bad part to stop the whole church? You have been around churches where there was one fight going on, but everybody in the church was occupied and controlled by it. The whole ministry was stymied. The issue is not just you; the issue is the rest of the body.
You don't hire a pastor or a pastoral team to replace the work of a body; you hire staff to equip you to do the work of ministry. That's our jobto empower and equip. No one man or woman can do it alone and live. A church will not grow and a body will not expand unless every member says, "I must play a part."
That's why I believe it is a sin to benefit from a ministry to which you do not contribute. It is a crime to come Sunday after Sunday and say, "Preach to me. Sing to me. Serve me. Set up the chairs for me. Print the bulletins for me. If I'm sick, visit me. If I'm hurting, comfort me. If I need encouragement, encourage me. But don't you dare expect me to give any of my time and my ability to you." I believe that kind of attitude is a crime!
Everyone who claims to be a member of the church but does not use his or her time and talents to serve the church insults God. He adopted you into his familylet you into his glorious homeand you don't want to clean your room? You don't want to play your part? God never calls for 20 percent of the people to serve the other 80 percent; he calls 100 percent of the people to serve. That's how the church works.
First Peter 4:1011: "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak as it were the utterances of God. Whoever serves, let him do it by the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever."
In two verses, Peter defines spiritual gifts as divine enablements, empowered by the Holy Spirit, which allow you to glorify God and build up his family. I would like to suggest every believer only has one spiritual gift. A person may be multi-talentedwith the ability to sing or speak or any number of thingsbut they are singularly gifted. The difference is God has given you one gift at a time to uniquely use for the building and promotion of his body.
God has given you a love for many things. At any given point in time, he wants to take one of those things and uniquely use it. For example, God could take a natural love for coaching and so infuse it with the power of the Holy Spirit that young boys are being developed into young, godly men. It becomes a spiritual gift when it's being used to glorify God and build up the body.
Support strong family structures.
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul writes a young Timothy in Ephesus, wanting to tell himas I would put ithow the church is supposed to run. A church, Paul insists, must be comprised of strong families. It's safe to assume, then, that Satan is after your family. That's why you have to fight for them. It's a part of the work of the church. First Timothy 5:8: "If anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than a non-Christian."
How can a Christian be worse than a non-Christian? Even non-Christians know they have a responsibility to their families! The Greek word for "provide" is a very interesting word, meaning "to think ahead" or "to provide by seeing in advance." Man's responsibility is to set a process into motion that assures the progress and well-being of the family. Like it or not, men have been called to be the primary providers in more than just financial ways. Paul tells men they are to make sure their children are instructed and disciplined. Such work is not separate from their church responsibility; it is part of it. Husbands, lead the way!
Women, there's a word for you, too. First Timothy 5:14: Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, to bear children, to keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach.
I want to make two points from this verse. First of all, let me speak to the idea of bearing children. Many couples are refusing to have children because they see the world as an awful place. Paul's world was much worse than the one we are living in now. Christians had their lives on the line! Besides, the whole point of bearing children is to produce a godly seed to counteract the unrighteous seed. You bear children so the kingdom of God can flourish.
Secondly, let me say a word about keeping house. "Keep house" does not mean, "Stay home." "Keep house" simply means women are to maintain a quality environment in the home. The word "keep" carries the idea of a manager. Women are to manage the affairs of the home, and her husband should entrust that responsibility to her.
"But can she work outside the home?" That's the wrong question. The right one is: "Can she work outside the home and still manage the home?"
My challenge for us is to simply become a better membershipand we'll try to be better leaders as we all build this church together.
Tony Evans is founder and President of The Urban Alternative. He pastors Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas. His most recent book is Kingdom Man.