While leaders (pastors/elders) exert significant influence in a local church, they are not the sole wielders of power. Each of us can make a positive difference when we see something about our church culture that could benefit from improvement. This does require us to overcome our natural inclination to sit back and let the leaders initiate change. The problem with that is another natural inclination: to resist when others offer direction!
Set the tone
One of the challenges many assemblies face is the lack of spiritual tone during “between the services.” Regardless of your place in the social hierarchy, you can have a positive influence on this often hectic, spiritually unfruitful time. Today, I’m thinking of some non-threatening ways of setting the wheels of change in motion in a positive direction.
1. Offer a compliment about someone’s character. We all like to hear when others like our new clothes or hair style. Raise it a notch by telling a friend what you appreciate about their spirit. “Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your gentle spirit. I love how you deal with rowdy kids.” Not only does such a comment encourage the recipient, it sets a tone of positivity that shines like a beacon in our negative environment (talking about the world here, not your church).
2. Try starting a spiritual conversation by commenting on something that came up earlier. “I really enjoyed the thoughts on spiritual solitude this morning. I thought it was cool how the idea gained momentum as people compared and contrasted it — looking at Jesus alone on the mountain and alone on the cross.” Then run with the response you get. Don’t force it. If nothing comes back, at least you tried and you sent the message that you think such things are worth thinking and talking about.
3. Invite someone to share a prayer request with you, and then pray about it with the person on the spot. Step into a quiet corner; there’s no need to draw attention to what you’re doing. Some people might prefer to find a private place; most won’t care about that. What they will care about is your entering, and bringing God into, their pain or sorrow. If appropriate, invite a couple of others to join you as you agree together in prayer.
When was the last time you confessed a vulnerability and invited someone to pray for you? Several years ago? Never? By inviting others into your life, you open a door through which they might give you access into theirs. I suspect this is more what the Bible writers had in mind when they talked about “fellowship” than the coffee and donuts most Christians associate with the word.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it contains simple things any of us can do. If you want to raise the bar on what happens “between the services,” give one of these a try.