How do myths affect the local church? Present expectations confine us, and myths will keep any church in a rut. We need to be aware of the myths churches face today:
Myth One: The church is a volunteer organization.
The average church member has been led to believe that activity within a local church is strictly voluntary, meaning members can come, give, share, and participate as they please. Church rolls have too long carried the weight of inactive and spiritually immature people who wrongly believe they may do as little as possible and still remain part of the local church. To counter this myth, consider the attitude of Paul, who often likened himself to a soldier, a servant, and a prisoner. He took his role in ministry seriously, and so should every believer.
Myth Two: We should use guilt to enlist people.
How many people have been recruited to serve by means of guilt-ridden phrases such as “If you love Jesus, you will serve in our preschool?” Any person who serves the Lord out of a sense of guilt loses the joy of ministry. We need to connect members to ministry through church by utilizing their spiritual gifts, personality, and passion.
Myth Three: Membership cannot have expectations placed on it.
Expectations of involvement are regularly placed on church members through civic organizations, sports, etc. The work of the local church carries much more weight than worldly pursuits such as these! The lack of impact in our world is evident because there are little or no expectations placed on church members. Like the believers in the New Testament, we must be committed to ministry through the local church.
Myth Four: Discipleship and evangelism are two separate things.
The work of evangelism—sharing one’s transformation in Christ with others—is the joyful task of every believer, not just the “gifted.” Transformation discipleship gives dual focus within believers. Simultaneously, believers mature in their Christian walk while sharing Christ with the world. A disciple of Christ can’t grow without also being a vibrant and verbal witness for Him.
Myth Five: It is impossible to get people to serve today.
Often, this myth results from a lack of clear vision in leadership. The truth is that members will give their efforts to exciting ministries with effective leaders. They’ll commit to work that makes a difference in others and in them.
Myth Six: Programs outweigh purpose.
The calendar of a typical church reflects attitude toward ministry. If a program rolls into next year’s planning without proper evaluation, people become loyal to a program at the expense of the purpose of the church. As a result, churches sacrifice the best ministries to do good ministries. Churches need to ask questions about the programs with which they are building ministry. They need evaluation against the Great Commission purpose of the church.
Myth Seven: The “80-20 Rule”
A common saying in churches is, “Eighty percent of the money and effort are given by 20 percent of the people.” The church has long accepted actions and attitudes that allow the minority to give sacrificially in doing the work of ministry to support the majority. But this kind of behavior was not part of the first church, as seen in Acts 2:41-45. The early church was filled with involved, generous, servant-hearted, unified people. We must be proactive in addressing this issue.
Myth Eight: Belonging to a local church is irrelevant.
Churches must remind their members of the relevance of membership in the local body of believers through addressing low expectations and reasons people are not actively involved. Every believer should participate in a local fellowship because Jesus died for the church. Should we not be willing to give ourselves to that for which Jesus sacrificed?
When we allow myths such as these to become reality in our congregations, we limit our impact for Christ. Myths rob our churches and members of being all that Christ intends them to be.
John S. Powers is a pastor at First Baptist Church, Norfolk, VA, and author of The BodyLife Journey: Guiding Believers into Ministry.