Why Every Church Member Matters

by Caleb Davis July 10, 2024

Most people don’t know who you are. In fact, most church members are unknown. They aren’t speaking at conferences, writing books, on a website, or being paid. I’ve been at conferences with thousands and thousands of people and less than a dozen on stage. Most Christians are the people in the pew, not the pulpit. But it’s easy to miss this. Even when we read the Bible, it is easy to think of it as a succession of tales of the important: Abraham, Moses, David, Ruth, Esther, Jesus, the disciples. But where does that leave us? What does God say to the average person in the chair? What does God say to the unknown church member or the unknown pastor for that matter?

One way to consider this is to look at all the names listed in Paul’s letters. Why are they there? Why did these otherwise unnamed people get a mention in the Bible? Why did the Holy Spirit in his infinite wisdom believe that these lists of names were useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness? What might God be trying to show us?

1. It takes many people to do God’s work.

Name some famous Christians who are known for their great work. Let’s make it easy; just narrow it down to those named John: John the Baptist, John Chrysostom, John Wycliffe, John Huss, John Calvin, John Knox, John Bunyan, John Owen, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, John MacArthur, John Piper.  That’s a lot of famous Johns!

But how many millions of people helped these ministries? There had to be untold amounts of editors, organizers, administrative assistants, people setting up chairs, watching kids, serving meals, cleaning up, managing the money, and so much more. The same is true in our churches. It takes many people to do God’s work.

When we look at Paul’s letters, we see him name around 100 different people. There are deacons, coworkers, ministry partners, friends, and church hosts. God’s work is too big for Paul, too big even for a Bible-writing apostle. There is no way to experience all that God intends for us as his church with only celebrity leaders, senior pastors, and paid staff. It takes many people to do God’s work.

Most of us won’t be the famous ones who speak on the stage or write the epistle, but we should strive to have our name on the list. We should show up, be involved, and be among the many co-laborers that work to build God’s church. We are not owners of our time, abilities, education, experiences, capacity, or gifting. We are stewards. It all belongs to God, and he wants us to use it to serve others in the church. We all have our part to play. God has decided that all of us are important for what he is doing in the church. Your ministry is needed. You are needed.

2. God values your work.

True, it takes many people; but are you just a cog in the machine? If we don’t have the prominent place or position, does what we do really matter? Is our role in the church valuable?

Often we recognize the value of the work being done by the titles given: Majesty, Excellency, Your Honor, Esteemed, Chief, Reverend, Doctor, even Pastor or Director. But what about those who don’t have a title? How does God view their work?

Paul gives many different titles to the normal people in his letters: dear friend, brother, saint, minister, faithful servant, coworker, partner, soldier, dearly loved, etc. These titles help us see the part we play. They help us see how what we do fits into what God is doing. When we do the ministry God has assigned to us, we are doing more than just the task. We are doing more than setting up pipe and drape, printing a bulletin, greeting, changing diapers, running sound, leading a small group, or playing the drums. We are fighting battles, creating family, strengthening relationships, meeting needs, shouldering burdens, fulfilling the mission, and working in the harvest. Ultimately, we are glorifying God by reflecting his character.

You may not have an official title that could be recorded on a resumé, but through Paul’s eyes you see how God feels about the work you do. God sees your contribution. God values your work. Your ministry is valued. You are valued.

3. It takes many unknown people to do God’s work.

Most of us would fail at trying to recall half the names Paul lists. When’s the last time you met a kid named Tryphena or Tryphosa? Or Philogus? Or take another example: who wrote the book of Romans? Most would say Paul, right? But, it was actually Tertius! He was the one who physically wrote down the text (Romans 1:1, 16:22). I know a Tertius. Even he didn’t know his name came from the Bible!

It takes many unknown people to do God’s work. This means it’s okay to be forgotten. We don’t have to leave a legacy. We don’t have to change the world. We don’t have to be remembered. We can serve faithfully and be forgotten.

We know this even with our favorite movies. How many people did it take to make Lord of the Rings? I know the names of the main characters and the director, but I’ve never sat through the credits and watched each name go by. I’m sure it took thousands of people over several years. Likewise, it took thousands of unknown people to build the great cathedrals of the world. It took millions of unnamed soldiers to win the great wars against evil in our world. And it takes millions of unknown volunteers, deacons, staff, and elders across our world every Sunday to love and serve God’s church. It takes countless unknown staff and volunteers for all the ministries serving in prisons, pregnancy centers, orphan care, youth ministries, camps, and every other imaginable good work.

You can play a huge part in history and no one even know it. You can write down the book of Romans and everyone forgets it. You can charge the hill that changes the war and no one knows your name. And you can faithfully serve God week in and week out and never make it on the website. That’s okay. It’s okay that much of our work goes unseen, unnoticed, and unrecognized. Faithfulness is better than fame. It takes many unknown people to do God’s work. Your ministry matters. You matter.

4. God knows each one doing his work.

“…help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:2–3

Reading this, I imagine a scene where Paul’s letter is being publicly read. You may know the feeling of having your name publicly acknowledged or thanked. It’s a great honor, even in something small. It feels good when we are seen and our name is said. Paul does this for some. The public acknowledgment must have felt good. And, if we were hearing the letter read, perhaps we would be wondering if our name was next. Would all the time we had put into working on that project, or showing up when others were having fun, or serving after hours finally be noticed? Would we be thanked and appreciated? But then after naming two women and Clement, Paul finishes with, “and the rest.” The list stops.

That may be you for your whole life. You name may not even make the list of unknown people. You may be just “the rest.” This may feel disappointing, discouraging, or unfair. We may be jealous, bitter, or unmotivated if our work isn’t seen.

But Paul doesn’t leave it there. It is the rest, “whose names are in the book of life.” That means even though they didn’t get the public accolades, God knows who they are. You may not have statues built of you or museums honoring your life or a biography telling your mighty works for the Lord. Your great-grandchildren may not even know much more about you than a photo in a dusty album. Though history may not remember your name, the one who wrote history does. The church may not see all you do, but the head of the church does. God knows all the overlooked, all the unseen, all the forgotten, all the unrecognized. God knows your name. He wrote your name as belonging to him. Your name is recorded forever in his book. Live for that book. God knows each one doing his work. Your ministry is known. You are known.

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