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  • Hannah Williamson

Get back up & be The Church!

A few thoughts on how to re-motivate people after they have had a 6 month break from serving in the Church!

Over the past 7 months we have seen our world turned upside down! Words like mask, corona, virus and lock down have become a regular part of our normal vocabulary! I was facetiming my niece the other day who is 5. I said to her ‘I can’t wait to come and see you,’ and her response was in a loud dramatic voice ‘not until after Lock down!!!’

In our churches, things have also dramatically changed, seeing us move to more of an online service or in more recent times encouraging people to book in online to come to church. Alongside this, churches have sought greater ways to serve their local communities. One of the interesting dynamics that has arisen has been in the area of ‘volunteering’ or ‘serving.’ Some of our regular serving teams stopped for months. Teams like kid’s teams, youth teams, the teams that run Sunday teams and other teams have certainly served in a different and probably less time-consuming way. Other teams have been formed like those seeking to feed the needy or support the lonely in our communities. In some ways this ‘break’ from serving has given people a chance to breathe and spend quality time with their families but on the other hand many have got used to not being ‘part of the team’ building our churches. There seems to be that feeling you sometimes get after going on a long holiday where you really don’t want to go back to reality, you don’t want to go back to work or to normal life….all you want to do is sit on the beach all day long! The difference with serving in the church is that unlike having a job (which pays bills and provides money for you to survive) it is a choice. You choose to get up on a Sunday morning to come and serve or to give up some of your time during the week to serve those around you.

I have had a few conversations over the past few months about how to motivate teams or individuals to get up and get back to serving within the local church setting. There seems to be, in many, a lack of motivation and drive. In some ways, in the early days of lock down where there was great practical need and people were more at home, people jumped up to serve when it came to helping those in the community, but as life has slowly gone back to normal some of this has fizzled out. This has got me thinking about how we can re-motivate the church to be THE CHURCH. How we can encourage people in our congregations to get back up and get involved in order for us to continue to build the Kingdom of God in our different localities.


To help us look at this, I want to focus on a passage from 1 Samuel 30. To give you some context, life has got really crazy for David and his men. Their homes had been burnt down and their women and children taken. People are worried, angry, frustrated and every other emotion you can imagine. Here is what it says:


David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them but carried them off as they went on their way.


When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So, David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”


“Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.” David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Valley, where some stayed behind. Two hundred of them were too exhausted to cross the valley, but David and the other four hundred continued the pursuit.


They found an Egyptian in a field and brought him to David. They gave him water to drink and food to eat—part of a cake of pressed figs and two cakes of raisins. He ate and was revived, for he had not eaten any food or drunk any water for three days and three nights.

David asked him, “Who do you belong to? Where do you come from?”


He said, “I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. We raided the Negev of the Kerethites, some territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.”


David asked him, “Can you lead me down to this raiding party?”

He answered, “Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.”


He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and revelling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah. David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled. David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.”


Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Valley. They came out to meet David and the men with him. As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were. But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”


David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the men who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.


When David reached Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, “Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the Lord’s enemies.”

David sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir; to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa and Rakal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athak and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where he and his men had roamed.


1 Samuel 30:1-31

 
Life had got crazy for David and his men. How did he motivate himself and those around him to get back up, serve God and do what they were called to do?

1. HELP PEOPLE FIND STRENGTH IN GOD. 1 Samuel 30:6

This part is so key to the story. Before anything else happened, David went to God, spent time with him and gained strength. In times of difficulty, we often find that what is really inside of us comes out. 2 years ago, when my Dad passed away, I faced the most difficult thing I had ever been through. The trauma of watching Dad so suddenly pass away certainly rocked me, but it was in that time that I was so grateful for my love of the Word of God. I am not a perfect person so don’t hear me wrong here but consistently from a child I read God’s Word every day. I have never been particularly consistent in memorising scripture but it would appear that so much had gone into my mind without me realising it, as in the darkest nights of grief, I often spoke verses aloud that I remembered and it was the only thing that really sustained me. I wept and recited God’s Word. It certainly gave me strength.

When it comes to this season we are in, can I encourage you to help people find their strength in God. Talk about your time with Jesus, help people learn how to have time with Him, help people know how to pray. I suspect so many of the people in our congregations come to church to ‘get a Christian fix,’ to keep them going through the week but have struggled in this season because they don’t know how to develop an intimate personal relationship with the One we worship. Help them learn how to do that in whatever way you can!


Practical thought: Who are you intentionally helping to develop their personal relationship with Jesus?


2. WORK OUT WHAT GOD IS DOING AND GET ON BOARD! 1 Samuel 30:8

Throughout 1 & 2 Samuel this line comes up and over and over – ‘….and David enquired of the Lord…’ I recently went through and highlighted every time it said this. David was an intelligent guy. He could have just made a plan and got on with it but he always ‘enquired of God,’ he always found out what God was up to and got on with His plan. In this strange season it’s easy to get caught up with the constant changing of regulations or to be overwhelmed by the need or to even look at what other churches are doing and copy them, but I really believe it’s important that we seek God for our individual areas. What is God doing right now amidst this pandemic and how can we jump on board with his plan? Once we have somewhat worked that out, how can we get people involved? During this pandemic, churches had to close and even though they have now re-opened they look very different. Especially in the midst of the worst points of lock down churches had to re-evaluate what they could do. They couldn’t do all the programmes, but they could serve the poor. They couldn’t gather in large groups, but they could care for individuals. They couldn’t get people to their buildings, but they could get into their homes via online church.

I have found that particularly through this pandemic, what has motivated people to continue or start serving has been to present people with the need. Show them how the church can make an impact and create opportunities for people to be able to do this. Seek God for your community and work out how you, the church will make an impact.

Practical thought: When you look at your town, what are the biggest needs and how is your church addressing them?

3. ACCEPT THAT FOR SOME, IT IS ALL TOO MUCH RIGHT NOW! 1 Samuel 30:10

I have read this passage a number of times over the years but have never really noticed this before but in verse 10 it tells us that 200 of David’s men were too tired to continue. It actually frustrated the other 400 men as we see later on when they don’t want to share the plunder they recovered. I think this is an interesting point for us right now. I fundamentally believe we should ‘equip the people for works of service’ as it teaches us In Ephesians 4:12. It is right that we try to encourage everyone in our congregations to get involved and serve, however we have to understand that in this season it may be ‘all too much for people right now!’ We have people who are shielding for medical reasons, others who have faced great bereavements, NHS staff who are somewhat traumatised from what they have worked in and people struggling with mental health like never before due to extended periods of isolation. This does not mean that these people will not jump back into serving down the line but for now, maybe they need to heal. We need to allow space for that. We need to ensure we care for these people so that when they are ready to jump back in, they are strong enough to do it.

I think we, of course, have to get a balance here. There is definitely a benefit in serving others when we feel down. It has been proven to help your well-being so we should certainly encourage this, however I think we have to ensure we are understanding where people are at and what they can give in this unusual time we are in.

Practical thought: Who in your community as a church do you need to reach out to and offer support?

4. MODEL GIVING YOUR ALL. 1 Samuel 30: 19

As leaders, we have to make sure we are modelling what we want of those we have the privilege of leading. In this part of the passage it says that David and 400 men who went to reclaim what had been taken from them took ‘everything’ back. Not one thing was left behind. They gave their absolute all to get everything back despite the pain they had previously felt.

If you want your people to serve, you need to model it. If you want your people to serve the poor, make sure you are serving the poor. If you want your people to serve their neighbours, make sure you are serving your neighbours. If you want your people to give of their time, make sure you are giving of your time. If you want your people to be full of faith, make sure you speak words that are full of faith.

Practical thought: In what areas do you, as the leader, need to model out service?

5. ASK THE PEOPLE HOW THEY ARE! 1 Samuel 30:21

I just love this part of the story!! David and his men come back after fighting, find the 200 men who were too exhausted to come with them and it says ‘As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were,’ There could have been a sense of frustration that these guys had done all the hard work. In all honesty this is what some of the other men felt but David was different. He asked these men how they were. He knew how much they had struggled, and he cared enough to touch base and find out how they were doing. I think this is an important reminder in this season to look out for those who are struggling alongside those who are doing the hard work of serving to make Sundays happen or to reach out to those in the community. It’s a very simple thing David did, but asking how they were would have said something very strong to this group of people. It would have reminded them that they were still part of the team. It would have reminded them that their leader still believed in them. It would have reminded them that despite their struggles they were still wanted, loved and needed. That’s powerful stuff!

Practical thought: Who do you know around you who is struggling that you need to ask ‘How are you doing?’ to?

6. KEEP POINTING PEOPLE BACK TO THE ONE WHO HAS CALLED US. 1 Samuel 30: 23

When the 400 men grumbled to David about showing kindness to the 200 who were struggling, he reminded them of the One they were serving. He reminds them that it was God that they were doing this for. We don’t encourage people to serve in the church just so we can build a big church and look good (at least I hope not!). We encourage people to serve because it is what God has called us to do. When Jesus left earth, he left us with the great commission –“to go out into all the world and make disciples.” It is our calling and we as the church are ALL responsible for being part of this. History would tell us that in times of great difficulty, the Church has always stepped up, seen people find faith and made a real impact into society. I believe now is no different to back then and so we have to help people remember who called us and what we are called to do. Motivate people back into serving by pointing back to the One who told us to do this – Jesus!

Practical thought: Does your preaching motivate people to serve by reminding them of the One who has called us?

 

I am praying for churches in this season, that they will be empowered by God to reach their communities and to build a church that represents who He is. One that is seeing many come to faith and making a huge impact in our society.

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