1 Peter 5:8, NASB: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
A friend had a word from the Lord a few months back, it spoke about ministering to the used and abused and the church (as a whole) needing to change the way it operates.
While this article mainly speaks to pastors and leadership, I hope that you will continue to read to the end. Perhaps you are one of those struggling with feeling used and abused. Or, you may be using and abusing those around you and haven’t recognized it! Not only does God desire to bring revival to the land, but He desires to bring revival and healing to your heart personally. Some of the deepest wounds that I have experienced have come from those within the church or in church leadership. Sound familiar? It should, Jesus experienced it. However, as Jesus demonstrated on the cross, forgiveness and healing is available to all who ask.
The questions below may be contributing to the growing feeling of being “used and abused” in your church body/relationships (whether you are a pastor, leader, or lay person). They are also most likely the reasons why many people are getting discouraged/offended and leaving our churches…
Do people cringe when they receive a call or text message from me?
- If the only time you contact people is to ask them to do something, or as a response to your duties, chances are people recognize that and do not look forward to your number popping up on their screen!
- This is most likely the number one issue that leads to people feeling used and abused. The answer to this, and most every question I bring up, is RELATIONSHIP. Jesus had several different levels of relationship to those around him. It appears He spent the majority of His time pouring into His twelve disciples. Are you spending time with those you are asking the most of?
- When we first started out in youth ministry, the youth minister we worked with developed a strong team of leaders. We spent time together. We prayed together. We did life together. We were family. I will always treasure that experience and those relationships. We try to model that wherever we go. It would have been impossible for that youth pastor to spend time with every teen one on one – there were a couple hundred teens! However, he developed a team and poured into them and they in turn reached out to others, etc.
- It seems to be a common factor in our churches that the same few people do the majority of the work. Are we looking out for them? Are there ways to get others involved (don’t ask the workers to do that too, it just adds more stress). Do we still have people in positions that we have promised would be temporary?
- Are we doing things because that is what we’ve always done, or because they are expected, versus asking God what He would like us to be doing? It may be time to lay some things down.
- Are the same people so busy teaching/working that they are not being ministered to?
- Are people working out of their passions or out of demand?
- Many years ago, when we were youth pastors, we were holding monthly spaghetti dinner fundraisers. I was in charge of cooking and setting up all the food and my friend Carole was in charge of making posters. We both hated our assignments. One day we were talking and the subject came up. We decided to change jobs and we were delighted to fulfill our responsibilities. The burden was gone. What a simple, yet amazing concept to help avoid burn out.
Do people truly feel their contributions are appreciated?
- The corporate world has recognized that all people do not feel recognized/appreciated in the same manner. I once sent an email to one of our Army customers thanking them for their help. I ended with, “You are AWESOME!” He was so happy to receive my note that he printed it out and hung it on his wall. It stayed there until he left that position. That email may not have the same effect on someone else, but perhaps inviting them over for dinner or out for a cup of coffee would. Some people love attention, others do not. Are we taking time to appreciate people in a manner that is meaningful to them, or are we simply checking a box?
Am I holding back from forming meaningful relationships, isolating myself, or have a difficult time trusting people because I have been hurt in the past? (This includes Pastors too!)
- If you are “in hiding” because you have been hurt one too many times, it’s time to reengage. God is not calling you to put your trust in man, but to put your trust in Him, the author and finisher of our faith.
Am I mentoring others? This would also apply to people knowing the vision of the church.
- Offering a book, a training course, a lecture, or a handout is not mentoring. It comes back to my paragraph on RELATIONSHIP. Mentoring/catching the vision happens when we do life together.
- Believe it or not, I have heard a number of youth pastor’s share they desired to be mentored by their senior pastor, only to be handed a book or pushed to the side with some off the cuff comment about learning the same way they did, the school of hard knocks…
- True mentoring can’t be learned from a book. Sure we can learn principles, but true mentoring comes from spending time together. Doing life together.
- We capture the vision of the church in the same way. We see it modeled and in turn, we learn to model it.
Are people stating that they aren’t being fed, even though it appears we have plenty of teaching?
- As previously discussed, are we keeping people so busy that they aren’t being ministered to?
- Another way that people are fed, is through actively participating in spiritual things. Are we providing opportunity and encouragement for people to participate spiritually as well as just “working.”
- Are we utilizing and recognizing the five-fold ministry and other ministry gifts? When people are being used in ministry there is a sense of fulfillment, not just for the individual, but for the body. It is one thing to go to church and sit, but taking part in what God is doing takes it to a whole new level! J If you are not good at recognizing the gifts in others, ask for help from your leadership. Who in your church body do they see as worshippers, teachers, prophets, pastors, prayer team, etc?
Would people say we are a “praying” church, or are we a church that “prays?” Are we a church that worships or are we simply leading songs?
- I put these two together because I feel they go hand in hand. There is so much in my heart about this. I don’t understand why praise, worship and prayer seem to take a back seat in our churches. Want to avoid people feeling used and abused? Take them to the feet of Jesus! Instead we take them to the well and offer them a spoonful of water. It doesn’t make sense.
- There is nothing more boring/life sucking, or frustrating than going to a lifeless prayer meeting. God has so much more. His word teaches us so much on the subject. There is power when we come together for prayer/worship, but we need to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. Take time to listen, to seek what He desires…to be obedient to His voice, and to act when He speaks.
Do we inhibit people by our expectations?
- This seems to be a rather large issue in churches today. People are crushed by criticism, but no one is willing to step up and help. Even though something may not be perfect or exactly the way we would have done it, we need to appreciate the effort and the heart of the individual. Yes, we should do things well, but never should we cause people to feel like they don’t measure up.
The questions I asked are key because they can easily lead to people feeling used and abused. We need to change how we operate as a church. As mentioned, developing healthy relationships is key. It is essential to the health of the church that its people feel like they are more than a warm body that is tasked to complete project after project.
In closing, I ask that you would take a few moments to ask the Father what part He would have you play in the healing of His church. I hope that what I have shared spurs some good conversations and soul searching. J
Ephesians 1:17-23 King James Version (KJV)
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.