What God Values in a Local Church
By Melanie Stone
Cain and Abel are examples of two brothers who brought gifts to the Lord. Cain was a farmer, so he brought an offering of fruit that he had produced, representing his hard work and ability. Abel was a shepherd, and he brought a lamb. He didn’t bring a living lamb, but a lamb he had slain. It was not just any lamb; it was the firstborn of the flock. What Abel had done was to offer the Lord a blood sacrifice for his sins. It was the offering that God wanted, an offering that made a way for God to come close to Abel. Abel’s gift was based on his dependency to the Lord, while Cain’s focus was based on the good that could be done on his own.
When we love God, we want to give Him what He wants. When we’re serving God as a pastor or church leader, we want our local church to be what the Lord wants. In order to do that, we need to find out what it is that God wants in a local church.
So what does God want? Sometimes what we value differs from what God values. For example, in Mark 12:41-44 Jesus was observing people that were giving their offerings at the temple. He pointed out that the widow who gave two mites had given more than anyone else. The rich put in a greater monetary value than the widow. What made the widow’s offering worth more? The value of her offering was based on the dependency of her heart. She gave God everything she had because He was everything she wanted. Jesus valued her surrender in her gift more than the gift itself.
According to what we read in the Bible, we can know what God wants. After seeking His presence, the Holy Spirit can reveal to us what God wants. We know that God values the position of our heart in consistent loving surrender to His will. When our hearts are submitted to Him, then we give Him leeway to do what He wants to do. When we yield ourselves to God in faith, we give God the opportunity to move by His grace, a grace that takes us over and above what we could ever do on our own.
When we stand before God to give an account for our life, we want to make sure that what we did was pleasing to Him. In our local churches, our aim should be giving God what He wants. To do this, we must learn what it is that God values. While there are many of God's values that we could discuss, after spending time in prayer, I believe that the Lord wants me to mention the following three in regard to our dependency on the Lord in our local churches:
Liberty for God to express His heart and freedom to demonstrate His power
God is God, and we are not. Our local church does not belong to us; rather, it belongs to God, and Jesus is the head over it. The people that are in it do not belong to us; they belong to their Father God. Our local church is a place for God to encounter His people. Our job as pastors or leaders is to lead people to experience God and to grow in their relationship with God. Our responsibility is not to lead people to us, to be impressed with us, or to commit merely to us. In everything that we do, we are always to be pointing people to a relationship with God, knowing His character and experiencing His anointing.
With this generation, we want to do what we can do to attract people. God values people, and He values our methods of drawing people to His house. Today we can use technology to attract people with our production – the sound, lights, staging, graphics, and video. We can even take what we do and put it online for the world to see. What we have to remember is that church isn’t just about our gifts, ability, and what we can produce. Church is still about dependency upon God, being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Actually, it is more than about being open; it is about being in pursuit of the Holy Spirit, intentionally going after Him, knowing that if we don’t have the anointing, we have no life.
God values technology – He is the One who gave it to us. Our technology is a tool to communicate the Gospel in a way that a now generation will receive it. However, if we value what we can do more than we value what God can do in our services, then we’ve become like Cain, focusing on ourselves, rather than like Abel, putting the focus on God.
God wants people to know His love and to be touched by His power. God longs to express Himself to His people. Therefore, when we get ready for a service or a ministry event, we seek God for what He wants us to prepare for, and we do it well. In addition, when we are in a worship service, our natural ears are listening to what is being projected, but our spiritual ears are listening for the Holy Spirit. When we give a message, our natural eyes are on the people, but our spiritual eyes are looking for the Holy Spirit. If God leads us to change a song, we change the song. If the Holy Spirit wants to take longer to pray, then we do it. If the Holy Spirit wants us to minister to people at the altar instead of sharing a message, then we might not have a message that day. Our plans will not change people’s lives, but one touch from the Holy Spirit can perform the miracle that someone needs. We are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, not the leading of a clock, a production schedule, or the rotation of a second service.
God wants the liberty in our services and in our ministries to express Himself to the people He sent His Son to die for. I think He should not only have that right, but He should also have the freedom to have His way at any time. When God wants to have the opportunity to remit His power to perform a miracle in someone’s life, then He should have our surrender to act in the way He wants and at the time He wants. God wants to lead us in what we do, so we need to seek God to show us how to recognize the Holy Spirit and know what He wants.
If we value God, then we will honor the delegated authority that He gave to the Holy Spirit over us. The Holy Spirit knows better than we do about what God wants to do in our services. He knows who is there and what they need. He knows how to attract people closer to God better than we can. He knows what time it is, and He knows what needs to be accomplished in that time. We do not need to be afraid that the Holy Spirit will scare anyone away. When the Holy Spirit moves, He moves in power, in love, and in order. What we need are mature, experienced, and empowered leaders who know how to move with the Holy Spirit and will not allow the distraction of fleshly demonstrations or erroneous teaching about spiritual matters.
We need to trust God concerning the move of His Spirit in our church services. God is better at reaching people than we are. He is better at healing people than we are. He is better at loving people than we are. He is better at providing for people than we are. It is our responsibility to seek what God wants, and then yield to what the Holy Spirit wants to do.
In seeking after God, we should be careful not to rely only on our past experience, but to look to God for a new experience. We don’t have to imitate an older generation or another church culture in order to have what we know as a move of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to use the same music, the same methods, or the same technology in order to have the same results that we had before. In fact, God would like to stretch us to step out of what is familiar in order for us to rely upon His Spirit for something new and fresh. We just need to offer God ourselves and seek Him for what He wants in the services and events of the local church.
The imitation of His Son Jesus Christ in serving others
Jesus came to the earth to reach people, and not just large groups of people, but individual people. There are churches of all sorts and sizes, but one is not more valuable than another. There are a variety of churches that work together to make up one Church, the Church that God delegated to His Son, Jesus Christ. What makes a local church valuable to the Lord is a church that is doing the part that God has called them to do.
Our emphasis should be on growing God’s Church, and He does that through growing local churches. A life-giving church is not always a large church, but it is a healthy church, and it is a church that is reaching outward. I am reminded of the parable Jesus told about the shepherd that left his ninety-nine sheep in order to go after the one. Reaching that one person is valuable to God.
If you were a parent with a dozen children, would it be okay if one of those children went missing? You still have eleven children, does that one child matter? Yes, of course that child matters. You would do all you could to relocate that one missing child. Large churches in large cities are not more valuable to God than a church that reaches a person no one else could. Whether you are reaching one or one million souls for Christ, each reached person is valuable to God.
Jesus said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give My life as a ransom for many.” God values a local church that imitates His Son Jesus Christ by serving the hurting, the lonely, the broken, and the weak. God values a local church that not only does the works of Jesus, but a church that does the works of Jesus with mercy and compassion, the way Jesus did it.
The generosity of a kingdom-minded leader
What we value is what we will pursue. What we value is what we give our heart, our attention, our time, our ability, our energy, our knowledge and our resources. God wants us to give, and He wants us to give generously. He wants us to us to share who we are, what we have, and what we can do with others, not only for building up our local church, but for expanding His kingdom through other local churches, church planters, traveling ministers, and missionaries. When we operate with liberty in regard to one another, we will experience the liberty of God’s grace flowing to us, in us, and through us.
In addition, God wants us to provide the means and opportunity for others to express their gifts, including the training and equipping necessary to help them to mature in God's purpose for their lives. God also wants us to help those who are younger, smaller, and less experienced. He wants us to share our strength and our wisdom with our brothers and sisters in our community, our city, our county, our state, our nation, and our planet. He wants us to help fortify and expand His kingdom by networking with one another and by caring for one another.
God wants us to be generous with His grace and His love. God wants us to have the heart to restore the broken, not to disregard someone who has fallen. He wants us to heal the hurting and meet the needs of the poor, not to show partiality to the strong or the rich. God wants us to honor the weak, not to misuse the vulnerable. He wants us to build one another up, not tear each other down through criticism, condemnation, or judgment. God wants us to hold up a standard of holiness, and, with kindness, draw people to God’s love and righteousness.
When we value others, we are valuing the kingdom that we are a part. Then we will know His glory and the fulfillment of living for Him.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we value what God values. In order to adopt God’s values, we need to have the following:
- Church leaders need to spend time with God in His presence to share His desires, to hear His instruction, and to gain sensitivity to the leading of His Spirit.
- Church leaders must be willing to say “no” to good things in order to say “yes” to God things.
- Church leaders need to care about what God thinks more than we care about what anyone else thinks.
- Church leaders need to surround themselves with a team that shares their values and is able to work together with one another.
- Church leaders need to have discernment and the courage to guard what God values.
- Church leaders need to be flexible to change their plans, which requires humility.
As a result of seeking God, we will find Him. We will experience His presence, His love, and His power in our churches and ministries. God will also keep us from overworking or hurting our bodies, our families, our relationships, and our lifestyle. We will see long lasting results in ministry that will point people to look to God and give Him their lives.