I’ve been thinking about growing churches this week. I often do. It’s hard not to in a church planting organisation like Co-Mission. But it was forced on me by Nehemiah 3. I’ve never preached on that chapter before. And I approached it with some trepidation. It’s essentially a list of names of people and their contribution to the rebuilding work in Jerusalem. Aren’t you gutted you won’t be at Christ Church Balham on Sunday to hear it? You should be. It’s a fabulous chapter.
Anyway, there’s a bloke called Meremoth. Heard of him? He was the son of Uriah. Ring any bells? Grandson of Hakkoz. No? Me neither. I hadn’t a clue who he was. But I do now. And I’m quite looking forward to meeting him in glory (not least to thank him for his contribution to my sermon).
Amongst this list of people, he’s distinguished by being mentioned twice (3:4 & 21). Apparently in the task of rebuilding the walls, he did that little bit extra. He did what was asked of him and then he did some more. He completed his section of the wall and found that he had the capacity to do another bit. So he did.
The point is not that we need to be like Meremoth. If we can, then great and we’ll get to that. But some of us won’t be able to. We simply don’t have the capacity, the ability or the opportunity to do any more than we’re doing at the moment. And that’s understandable. As I write this, I can think of one stalwart of our congregation who’s been knocked for six by serious sickness. She’s gutted at not being able to join in the work of growing the Kingdom. But no one’s expecting her to contribute at the moment. She needs us to look after her. And we’ll happily do so because she’s family. And so there will be times and often long periods when we’re unable to get involved as we’d like to. For whatever reason we’re not able to do that little bit extra. And we certainly won’t be able to manage what everyone else is doing. And that’s fine. We don’t need to be like Meremoth. But we do need to appreciate those like him and what they do for the building up of the local church.
But we don’t always feel like that, do we? We can react very differently to the contribution of a Meremoth. Sometimes guys like that wind us up for setting the bar of self-sacrificial service so high. They’re just a bit keen, driven and zealous. They make the Christian life seem unattainable and we don’t like being played offside. And so, it’s not unheard of for us to move beyond plain and simple jealousy to despise them. They can make us angry because they’re denying us what we want; to feel justified by our contribution. But that’s self righteousness.
There are some who work very hard for the growth of the Kingdom at our church. Some of them will remain anonymous either because they prefer it that way or their contribution takes place behind the scenes. But there are people at CCB who have an extraordinary capacity for work and self-sacrifice who are happy to contribute that little bit more. God has given them their capacity for self-sacrifice. And it’s a great gift to the church. People like that aren’t the most important people in our church family. And we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that they are. But it’s probably true to say that there aren’t many growing churches without people like them. And so we mustn’t forget to appreciate them, to encourage them and especially to thank God for them.