Anyone who plays or follows sports knows that it takes an entire team to win. Winning teams usually have star players and role players. A team is usually built around one or more stars, relied on to carry the squad. Role players have lesser-known yet still significant roles. They don’t receive all the credit, take all the blame or provide the most influence.
But each role player is vital to the overall success of a team. If they fail to execute their responsibilities, it makes everyone’s job harder. We often don’t realize that role players strengthen the team dynamic, not the stars. Stars have a significant impact, but without an excellent supporting cast willing to follow, sacrifice, and carry out necessary tasks for the benefit of the team, that team will either remain stagnant or eventually crumble into a rebuilding state.
Sports fans also know there’s no greater competitive experience than when your team is firing on all cylinders because everyone is doing their job. If you watched the recent demolition in the 2018 NBA Finals as the Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers, you understand this illustration very well, but I digress.
A HEALTHY CHURCH
It’s no different in the church. While some may lead out front, and others help make it possible, everyone is necessary. There’s no better feeling than when your church is in sync and everyone is doing their part to make disciples. A church like this is healthy.
“Healthy" doesn't refer to numerical growth, increased staff positions, the number of ministries, even the longevity of a church. All those things are good and can be the fruit of faithful service, but they are not God-promised signs of success.
God's path to success for his church is based more on subtraction than addition. The words of Christ teach us that to gain we must lose; and to live, we must die (Matthew 16:24-26).
This means our churches should forsake worldly passions and pursue Christ. A healthy church progressively reflects the character of God through a constant dying to self so his name may be magnified.
Every church should desire to be healthy in this manner. Mark Dever draws a picture of a healthy church; “I like the word healthy because it communicates the idea of a body that’s living and growing as it should. It may have its share of problems. It’s not been perfected yet. But it’s on the way. It’s doing what it should do because God’s Word is guiding it.”
So even if it’s unpopular, uncomfortable or tedious, continue in steadfast pursuit of what Scripture calls us to in Ephesians 4:11-16, which is to equip the saints, and build up the body of Christ, until we all attain unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Now the question is, “Isn’t building up the church the pastor’s job?” Yes, but the job isn’t theirs alone. Every member is called to take part in building up their particular body. Members are meant to serve in ways that supplement the pastor’s role and make his work a joy and not burdensome.
Here are four ways to become a good role player in your church.
1. DEVELOP A PRAYING SPIRIT
We should pray for church leaders and members, always interceding on their behalf. Paul urges the church in Ephesians 6:18 to at all times make prayers and petitions for all the saints. Often, our default reaction is to criticize or complain about what goes on in the church, regardless of it is right or wrong, big or small. I’ve struggled with this more often than I can say.
However, I was convicted by the words of Puritan preacher John Bunyan, who said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Words, thoughts, and works will all be in vain if we don’t first seek the Lord for wisdom.
How much do our critical spirits or excessive complaints build up the church? If we reprogram ourselves to pray instead of criticizing, I believe our attitudes toward the object of our critique will change. Excessive grumbling and objection only lead to quarrels and factions.
Remember what James 4:1-3 says: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
We must be gracious and patient with leaders and other believers. We're in this walk of sanctification together. Pray with your brothers and sisters. Pray for your leaders. Let’s guard our hearts against selfish motives, discouraging words, and critical attitudes by striving to pray for one another instead of preying on one another.
2. PARTICIPATE IN CYCLES OF DISCIPLESHIP
Members should disciple one another, walking alongside each other, teaching and showing each other how to walk faithfully with the Lord. Titus 2:2-8 speaks of older men teaching younger men, and older women teaching younger women. The mature need to invest in the less mature. The Christian life is a life of discipleship, from every angle.
I was oblivious to the concept of discipleship during my younger days in the church. No one ever approached me about reading the Bible together or going through a Christian book. The shallow depth of my Christian relationships was reached between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sundays.
I had a tough and lonely walk for some years. But years down the road, the Lord placed some godly men in my life willing to teach me how to be a godly man. And it was from that experience that I learned what true discipleship is.
It’s imperative that members do their part by intentionally seeking out others known for their wisdom and maturity, asking him or her to spend some time discipling them. Or seek out a younger, less mature Christian, maybe someone on the fence about membership, and similarly engage them.
Studying the Bible together is a great starting point, but as the relationship builds, begin to step it up a notch and ask tough questions regarding personal holiness, practice confession and repentance, and pray for each other. These practices will eventually lead to mutual Christian accountability (Proverbs 27:17) and a stronger walk with the Lord. As each Christian is built up, so is their church.
3. PRACTICE EVANGELISM
In many churches, stagnant growth is often a mystery or a blemish. Despite faithful preaching of the Word and a pastor living above reproach, some churches remain stuck or are on the decline. The causes can’t always be determined, but one diagnosis often is lack of evangelism by members. The sermon is not, and should not be, the only means of evangelism going on. Every member should be involved in personal evangelism. Scripture mandates that every Christian be equipped for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12). Pastors are responsible to equip the saints. If they do the training, members are responsible for receiving that training and putting it into practice.
4. CELEBRATE EACH OTHER
Individually and collectively, public adoration for the faithful living and gospel witness of members should regularly happen. Our churches should thank God for members showing hospitality in their homes, doing mission work, sharing the gospel at their jobs or with their neighbors, serving in children's ministry, and starting ministries or small groups.
Don't be afraid to publicly affirm, with wisdom, the Christian maturity that particular members are displaying, for the blessing they have been to the body. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 says, "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”
Cultivating the practice of celebrating the work of God in the lives of members will help us think more of others than ourselves and give glory to God.
PLAY YOUR ROLE
Church members who pray, disciple, evangelize and celebrate are blessings to their bodies and pastors. There are other ways to faithfully serve your local church, but for those unsure where to begin, let these four areas be your starting blocks to becoming an excellent role player. This will help strengthen your church and make for a great team win for the Kingdom of God.
No matter what your role is, if you play it well, you will help build up your church until it reaches its full potential.
Joseph Dicks was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, and is a master of divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an assistant campus missionary with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He is married to Melanie, and is a member of Mosaic Church Lexington. Follow Joseph on Twitter.