The Church Sidelines

Over a week ago, I had the privilege of attending the Montgomery’s Center graduation for doctors in residence with the Self Regional Healthcare network.  It was my first time attending this ceremony, and I was excited to be there because over half of those graduating had been a part of North Side while they were in Greenwood.

I promised not to “Cousin Eddy” any of them even though I was so tempted!

The 3-year and 4-year programs attract gifted doctors to serve with Self Regional, and while we have had great folks come through Greenwood, this class was special because of their level of involvement in the community.

The graduation was extremely bittersweet for me because I am so thankful for their investment into the community but almost all of them have found jobs in other communities and have already left or are nearing their moves.


I was honored to be introduced by them to others as, “This is one of our pastors” and not “he is on staff at the church where we attended.”

Our church was more than a Sunday deal for them.

In our conversations in the last few weeks, I have been very humbled by what they have said about our church:

  • “I hoped to find a great place to come on Sundays for our time in Greenwood.  I never imagined I would find a family here and be so connected in this short time.”
  • “We are excited about what God has in store, but our hearts are heavy leaving what we feel like is our home church.”
  • “You guys have made it very difficult.  We have already started looking for a new church in our new city, and we are missing North Side bad!”
  • “We are moving closer to family which excites us, but if we could just pick up the family at North Side and take them with us, we would be great!”
  • “A lot of churches say they are Bible-based, but we have never seen a church that centers around the Bible like North Side.  It really governs everything that is done here.”

Out of all the things said, the last one may be my favorite.  To hear a smart, godly, talented couple have that as their single takeaway from their church is about as rewarding as you can get!

Wherever You Are…

I love these families.

Since I’ve met them, their lives have changed.  Many children have come into the mix since they came to Greenwood, and a lot of life has happened.

Two of the guys have been in my discipleship group.   Their wives were in my wife’s group.

Others have served in ministry settings, been a part of Bible studies, and been faithful in worship attendance.

They had this mentality: don’t come to church, be the Church.

They were unwilling to sit on the church sidelines.

And they had that mentality even though they knew they would only be in our city temporarily – and that’s what I love about their stories!

I wasn’t at the graduation as an official representative from the church.  I was there because I am going to miss my friends.  I truly love these doctors and their families.  I ended up trying to console one of their babies during the ceremony not because I had to, but because I want to – these people are truly family to me.

Their inspiring example reminded me of missionary Jim Elliot’s famous quote:

Wherever you are, be all there.  Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.

It is very easy to live in the future.  Anticipating the time when all of life settles into a neat and tidy box, it is common to treat the present with disdain or neglect.

Your situation might be:

  • Waiting for a spouse
  • Waiting for children
  • Waiting for an empty-nest
  • Waiting for the perfect job (which you will never find)
  • Waiting for the perfect church (which you will also never find)
  • Waiting for a secure savings account
  • Or simply waiting for circumstances to align themselves perfectly

Can I just point out that you may be waiting on things you will never have?  At least not in the ideal state in which they are seen in your mind.

Wherever you are, be all there.

  • Make the most of the opportunity that you have because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16).
  • Don’t neglect assembling together with the Body of Christ as is the habit of some (Heb. 10:25).
  • Do good to other believers while you have that opportunity (Gal. 6:10).
  • Whatever your hand finds it to do, do it with everything you have (Ecc. 9:10).
  • Devote yourself to the body of believers around yourself (Acts 2:42).
  • Encourage one another daily (Heb. 3:13).
  • Wherever you are, truly be there the whole time (Acts 20:18).

Maybe You Don’t Need Them, But What If They Need You?

You may be thinking, “Yeah, but in my situation in my life, I don’t know if I am going to stay put for 6 weeks or 6 years!”  That’s exactly my point.  Even if it is six days, jump in with both feet and I promise you won’t regret it.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.  -James 4:13-17

Oftentimes, I will hear people say, “I really don’t need to be connected to a church.  I’m all good by myself.”

Make sure you understand this: I don’t agree with you.  Not in the slightest.  I think that thought process is completely unbiblical and unhealthy (but I will save that rant for another day).

But let’s just imagine you were correct in your line of thinking.

Have you ever thought that even you don’t need them, what if they need you?

Biblical community is not all about what you get out of it.  It’s also about what you put into it.  Maybe the local church around you needs your time, passion, experiences, wisdom, and heart.  Maybe there is someone who is going through a difficult path on which you have already traveled.  And to neglect connecting to them is to their detriment.

I still believe it is to your detriment as well, but have you ever contemplated who might miss out because you sat on the sidelines?

While I am saddened by my friends’ departures, I am excited about how God is launching them from this church into communities where they will be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16).

Even more so, I am thankful to God for their example of jumping in with both feet, all-in, face to the plow mentality that has made myself, my family, and our church better because they lived as the church rather than coming to a church.

I pray that message resonates with you today as well.  Get off the sidelines.  Do your part on the team where God has placed you.