Anyone who plays or follows sports knows it takes an entire team to win.
To be sure, winning teams usually have both star players and role players. Star players are relied on to carry the squad. Role players have lesser-known yet still significant roles. They don’t receive all the credit or take all the blame.
But each role player is vital to the team’s success. 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.
A HEALTHY CHURCH
It’s not much different in the church. While some 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 will be healthy.
Now “healthy” doesn’t necessarily refer to numerical growth, increased staff positions, or even longevity. Those things are good and often the fruit of faithful service, but they’re not God-promised signs of success. After all, 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).
Every church should desire to be healthy in this manner. Mark Dever says this about healthy churches: “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 pastor, even if it seems unpopular, uncomfortable, or tedious, continue in steadfast pursuit of what Scripture calls us to in Ephesians 4:11–16. 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 pastors’ job?” Yes, but not by themselves. Every member is called to take part in building up their particular body. Every member is meant to serve in ways that supplement the pastors and make their work a joy and not burdensome.
So, with that in mind, 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.
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.
Do critical spirits or excessive complaints build up the church? No, not at all. But if we reprogram ourselves to pray instead of criticize, 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 both leaders and other believers. We’re in this walk of sanctification together. So pray with your brothers and sisters. Pray for your leaders. And guard your heart 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. They should walk 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.
It’s imperative that members intentionally seek out others known for their wisdom and maturity, asking him or her to spend time discipling them. More mature members should seek out younger, less mature Christians—maybe someone on the fence about membership—and similarly engage them.
How do we do this, practically? 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, stagnancy is often a mystery. Despite faithful preaching of the Word and pastors living above reproach, some churches remain stuck or are on the decline. The causes can’t always be determined, but one diagnosis is the lack of evangelism.
Simply put, the sermon isn’t—and shouldn’t be—the only evangelism going on in a church. Instead, every member should be involved in personal evangelism. Pastors are responsible to equip the saints (Eph. 4:12). 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 faithful living and gospel witness should happen regularly. We should thank God for members who show hospitality in their homes, do mission work, share the gospel at their jobs or with their neighbors, serve in children’s ministry, and start ministries or small groups.
Don’t be afraid to publicly affirm the Christian maturity that particular members are displaying, for the blessing they’ve been to the body. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4, “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 other are blessings to their congregations and their 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 point.
Editor's Note: This originally published at 9Marks.