Church members come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with differing skills, passions and gifts. And God places each church member in the body according to his design (1 Corinthians 12:18). Fore more than three decades I have had the privilege of loving and serving more than 5,000 church members. And I would be less than truthful if I did not acknowledge that some have been easier to love than others.
The Harder to Love Church Member
One of my best friends reminds me every time that we talk that he loves my wife and children. And he loves me because Jesus told him to! With friends like that, right? As a pastor you don’t get to choose your church members. God places them in the body. When I get to heaven I want to ask God some questions. Like, why did you create mosquitoes? And gnats? And why did you place these people in the church?
1. The Negative Church Member
Some people are just negative. As my grandmother would’ve said, “They were born negative and had a relapse.” I remember one church early in my ministry where two church ladies were affectionately known as “Doom and Gloom.” Like Joe Btfsplk from Lil’ Abner, they walked around with a cloud over their heads.
2. The Critical Church Member
Some people fill this role like they think it really is a spiritual gift. And God really has placed them in the body to exercise this gift. I won’t give too many details here. I’m afraid I might actually call some people out. But my “favorite” critic was a lady who told me, “I loved you when you first got here, but when you changed your hair style…”
3. The Rogue Church Member
Negative and critical church members can be a nuisance. But they are not usually harmful to the body. But a rogue church member is another story. This is the person who pursues his own agenda. He does not submit to God. He does not submit to leadership. And he does not submit to the body. He knows what is best!
4. The Toxic Church Member
This is often a member who embodies all three of the above characteristics. One couple who joined our church bragged that every church they had joined experienced a “split.” And they tried their best to make it happen again. Sadly, I got a phone call not too long ago from someone in their current church. They are still causing trouble.
I do not believe that God placed these people in the body in order for them to be negative, critical, rogue or toxic. But he has used them to further my sanctification and to grow me as a shepherd leader. I have not always loved them the way that I should have. And for that I have deep regret.
My Favorite Church Member
Sometimes we focus on the negative and seem to imply that there is more bad than good. I thank God that is not the case. I have been blessed to know hundreds and hundreds of amazing men and women who love Jesus, love the church, love one another, and love their pastor! These are my favorite church members.
1. They are growing church members.
They are disciples. Right now my mind has gone to two young ladies who were members of one church I served. One was in high school. The other was in college. And over a period of nearly four years I watched both of them grow in incredible ways as they placed themselves in God’s hands to be used according to his purposes!
2. They are praying church members.
Last night one of these members put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Pastor, I pray for you every day.” And I know that he means it. I also know that he prays for every member of the church. And he prays for God to use the church. He prays for the community. He is a praying church member.
3. They are positive church members.
They see the good in each situation. The good in the church. They even see the good in me! These church members are fun to be around. I have been incredibly blessed to have these kinds of members and friends in every church I have served. We have played golf together. Gone to ballgames together. Enjoyed meals together. Snow-skied. Hiked. Hung out on the lake.
4. They are truth-speaking church members.
Yes, my favorite church members include those who have been able to speak truth to me. Even when I did not want to hear it. These were not negative, critical, rogue or toxic church members. These were men and women who earned the right to speak truth into my life. They earned the right to break through the echo-chamber. And for them I am immeasurably grateful.
Shepherding the sheep of God’s pasture is an incredible privilege. It is also hard work. Church members come in all shapes and sizes. And I thank God for each of them. Past. Present. And future. Those who are easy to love. And those who are a bit harder to love.
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church of Eupora, MS as a Transitional Pastor. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries or to financially support the work of church revitalization, visit https://robpaul.net