I’m not certain but I suspect that if you asked a pastor what discourages him most, a common answer given would be the inactive member. By inactivity I don’t mean only those who are habitually absent, but also the member who merely warms a seat but does little to participate in the life, service, and especially the worship of the church. But it’s not only a great discouragement for a pastor (and congregation), it is also a good reason for concern. An inactive member is one of the sheep that has gone astray and requires the shepherd to leave the ninety-nine to go after the one.
As I thought about this, here’s what I’d like to say to the inactive member —:
I wanted to write you a letter of encouragement. I’ve noticed lately that you haven’t been as present in the life and worship of the congregation as you once were. I understand that there are many things in life that detract or hinder us from being as active as we should be, and maybe we just need a bit of a nudge in the right direction. In fact, it’s a temptation that the Bible encourages us against: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25). So with that in mind let me encourage you to not neglect the life, service, and worship of the church.
First, I want to encourage you because God is worthy. When we meet week-by-week to worship God we don’t do it because it’s tradition or mere formality. Rather, we do it because God is worthy to be worshiped: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). When we come together in worship — as God wants us to do — we are saying “You are worthy!” But when you don’t come to worship because you don’t feel like it, or you’re too busy, or you’d rather do something else, you are telling God “You’re not worthy.” God is worthy of being worshiped, loved, and served by you.
Second, I want to encourage you because the church is a body. Paul wrote: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:4-5). By the Holy Spirit we’re not only united to Jesus but to one another. When you’re not participating in the life, service, and especially the worship of the church we feel your absence. We value you — your presence, service, gifts, and graces. To put it this way, when you’re not with us we’re not complete but we’re a body that is missing a part.
Third, I want to encourage you because of your spiritual growth. God doesn’t intend Christians to grow all by themselves. Rather, we are to grow together. Again, Paul wrote that we have the ministry of the church so that “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). I’m afraid to say it, but it’s a biblical assumption that your inactivity means you’re not growing spiritually. You’re not growing in a love for God or for your neighbor; you’re not growing in your knowledge and understanding of the things of God. This isn’t a good place to be and we don’t want you to be there.
Fourth, I want to encourage you because of the wiles of Satan. Peter wrote: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I don’t know a lot about the habits of lions, but I do know that they prey on those who are detached from the herd. I worry that in being inactive and not participating you’ve separated yourself from the herd and have become easy prey for Satan — his lies, flaming darts, and temptations. There’s a reason that just before this Peter wrote “Be alert.” We don’t want you to be resisting the devil all on your own, that’s why God has given you to us and us to you.
Fifth, I want to encourage you because of mutual edification. Even Paul who was an Apostle wanted and needed to be with the church. To the congregation in Rome he wrote: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:11-12). You’re a member of this church and you’re also a friend and family member in Jesus. We want to have opportunities to edify you and also to be edified by you.
Sixth, I want to encourage you because of joy. In writing to a church John said: “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12). Everyone wants to be happy, glad, and joyful. The Bible reminds us that we find joy in the face to face presence of one another. That is to say, you contribute to our joy when you are present and we contribute to yours.
Finally, let me encourage you because of the promises you made. When you became a member of this church you promised to throw your weight into this congregation — your devotion, service, influence, encouragement, and help. You and I know both know what it’s called when we’re not true to our word. Would you allow me to ask: were you being honest when you made that promise?
We all need encouragement from time to time to not quit but to keep with it. I hope you know that just as you need us, so we need you: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Kyle Borg, Pastor of Winchester RPC, Kansas