You Can Provide Clean Water to Persecuted Christians

Is God Challenging You to Become More Involved in Your Local Church?

Is God Challenging You to Become More Involved in Your Local Church?

“…fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth” (Joshua 24:14).

God loves His Church – His bride! 

His Church is the center of His focus; it was created to be salt and light in this dark world. As a whole, we are the Body of Christ, working together, each bringing our specific gifts, talents and finances to do the will of the Father. It is part of the blueprint for the Gospel mission:

“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23).

It’s the way we’re created: we can do more for God together than we can do as individuals. We can accomplish more for God working as a team, than we can by ourselves.

Therefore, God expects us to have love for one another and come together as His Church in service to Him. But as it’s often been said, it seems 20% of the people in the local church do 80% of the work, while the rest sit in the pews like spectators in the bleachers watching a sporting event. Understandably, this makes the church much less effective and hinders the spread of the Gospel.

So, if we want to be “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) like young King David, we have to have a heart for the same things as God – and that includes His house. We do this by cheerfully assuming our position on the “team” of His Church.

Now, if you recognize yourself as a person still sitting in the bleachers, be encouraged! Jesus loves you, believes in you, and has created you with very special abilities that are greatly needed in the Church. And He is challenging every one of us to stand up, come down from the bleachers and get to work.

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Consider the Geese

Group of geese flying in a V

Jesus famously said, “Come, follow Me!” Literally, He was saying in Matthew 4:18, mimic me. That is, do what I do, behave like I behave; love what I love and hate what I hate. Be committed to building what I’m committed to building. To follow Him means laying down our wills, taking up our cross, and doing the will of the Father.

Geese certainly know how to follow! Have you ever seen a flock of geese migrating in Spring or Fall, how they fly one after another in a V-formation with one lead goose at the point. In a very real sense, the lead goose breaks the air, and the others in V-formation “draft” aerodynamically, like cars in a speed race. They not only honk as a kind of encouraging rally cry for the entire group, but they also rotate the lead position each in turn. They seem to know that in order for their flock to get to their desired destination and maintain its vitality, they must take their turn at the helm and distribute the burden equally. You might say, the geese realize that they can’t just stay in the bleachers!

Today, there is a lot of “honking” going on in the Body of Christ, some of it good, encouraging and healthy; some of it is not good, but dangerous and destructive. And sadly, the “honking” that is destructive usually comes from the people who have decided to make the bleachers their dwelling place.

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Called Out from the Bleachers

Soccer player sitting on the bench, waiting

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’” (Luke 19:1-6).

In one day, Zacchaeus went from being a guy who was watching from the sidelines to being a guy who was absolutely in the game. He was a fan, a spectator in a tree, but when Jesus called, he became a fully devoted follower of Christ.

When it comes to having a relationship with God, everyone spends at least some time observing from the bleachers. It’s good to take some time to learn the game, but don’t stay there too long.

That’s what the bleachers are; they are like the tree Zacchaeus climbed – a place of observation from a distance without participation. Safe and uncommitted. But the bleachers are also a place of unfulfilled destiny and unrealized purpose. You just can’t fulfill your destiny in life, or in God, by staying in the seat of comfort and complacency.

Ships are never at risk while sitting in a safe harbor, where they are safe from winds, storms, waves, and icebergs. But ships were not built to remain in a harbor; ships were built to travel the seas.

Child of God, you and I have not been called to live our lives spectating from the bleachers!

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Jesus Loves the People in the Bleachers

silhouette of Cross at sunset in beautiful scenic outdoors

Zacchaeus was on the top of everyone’s unlovable list.  Although his name means “pure” “innocent” or “righteous,” he was anything but righteous. 

Zacchaeus, a Jew, worked for the enemy Roman government. The Romans kept the Jewish people in bondage by extorting unusually high and unfair taxes from them. 

And Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector of that area. He would not only collect for the Romans, but he took a little extra for himself as well. He was a weasel, a thief and was hated by the whole community. But he was also drawn to Jesus and watched from afar. And suddenly, while walking down the streets of Jericho one day, Jesus called out to Zacchaeus to break bread with Him. In ancient Israel, this act represented the deepest form of personal relationship.

The people with Jesus were all shocked as this teacher and healer, who claimed to be God, reached out in friendship to a hardened sinner. Clearly this account shows that Jesus loves even the people hiding in the bleachers! He knows them all by name, and He’s got a powerful plan for their lives. Even those that try to keep a safe distance from Jesus are still on His radar.

Remember, God’s love is not earned; it’s free. He loves us when we deserve it and when we don’t, when we are serving Him and when we aren’t. 

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God’s love is unconditional, indiscriminate, everlasting and underserving!

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Jesus Believes in the People in the Bleachers

A man praying in a church

When you are hated and rejected by everyone, no matter how happy you may seem on the outside, you can’t possibly be happy on the inside. Zacchaeus knew who he was and what he had done. Presumably he felt ashamed, or undeserving, so he stayed a safe distance away from Jesus and the disciples, observing from the “bleachers” of his tree branch.

Maybe some of you who are currently hiding in the bleachers feel this way too.

I’ve done too many bad things, that I can’t be used by God as part of the team.

I’m too far gone to be used by God as part of the team.

I don’t deserve to be part of the team.

You’ve lost belief in yourself. But despite all that, notice that Jesus called Zacchaeus anyway. With that one, simple invitation, Jesus communicated a powerful and life-changing message:

Zacchaeus, I believe in you enough to come to your home, to have a meal with you, to sit down and talk with you. Even though you deserve the scorn of your city – I believe in you enough to take time out of My busy schedule to spend with you. And I believe in you enough to choose you out of all these other people.

Jesus’ message to Zacchaeus was I believe in you!

And the same is true of all of us, especially those of us still sitting in the bleachers.  God believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.  

Remember fearful and hiding Gideon? Remember overlooked and despised David? Remember stuttering and humbled Moses? 

God looks past our tattered exteriors, low self-esteem and battered souls. He knows what you are created to be, and will not just give up on you because of your past. God believes in the people in the bleachers and wants them to join the team!

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Jesus Calls Everyone to Come Out of the Bleachers

A businessman in a crowd looking up

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

There are some who remain in the bleachers despite the love that God has for them, or the call of God on them, because other things are more important to them than God.

Some are not in the game because they’re just comfortable sitting, and they don’t really see the point of changing. They’re stuck in the bleachers, and have been there for years.

Some won’t commit because they feel the “church” is a man-made organization and so, why do anything more than just attend occasionally. So, they spectate from the bleachers… occasionally. 

Some won’t join the team because they were offended in the last church they attended, have not forgiven them yet, and prefer to remain aloof, alone, and quite deceived. 

Some are so busy with daily pursuits, they just don’t have time to do any more than be a fan for a couple of hours on Sunday morning.  

Some are still hoping to find a better team with better worship, friendlier people, a younger pastor.                                                          

It’s past time for everyone to set aside the excuses, and get in the game. Once we do, Jesus challenges us (like Zacchaeus), to deal with those issues and to do what is right. He calls us to be more than a spectator or a fan, but to be part of His team, serving cheerfully and pulling our weight. When we do, we will experience the blessings of being part of the greatest mission on the planet – seeing people come to Jesus Christ – and will grow up into everything He has destined us to be!

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Frank SantoraFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit Photo by Michele Roman.