Your Investment Determines Your Return
It does not require the experience and understanding of finances possessed by Dave Ramsey to know that one is not likely to see financial return unless there has first been an investment made. Historically, this truth, or at least a related truth, has been communicated in the phrase "you get out what you put in." To some degree, it is the principle of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7). Solomon alluded to this truth when he said, "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days" (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Oftentimes, these truths, principles, or laws apply in a broader sense to multiple aspects of life. Failure to do so would suggest that they were less impactful than laws. In fact, one way to identify something as a law, or wide-spreading principle, is to consider the potential for hurt to those who are bereft of their knowledge and implementation.
One area where many of us expose our ignorance to these truths pertains to our preparation for and investment in the services at the church we attend each week. Our conduct suggests that any responsibility we have in the outcome of the service is held within the confines of that service. Even then, many act as though they have nothing to add to the service and that all responsibility for the proper results and desired outcomes from the service lie at the feet of the church leadership. The theory is that if the service goes well, the leadership did a good job; if the service does not go well, the leadership must have failed in some aspect. This is wrong on both levels.
Truth be told, it goes without saying that the leadership should prepare for and invest in the services. Obviously, Sunday School teachers should study and do their best in the delivery of their lessons. The song leader should know the song selection, be well acquainted with those songs, and give his best as he leads others to worship the Lord through those songs. Musicians should practice and then play to the best of their God-given ability. The preacher should have thoroughly studied and have a grasp on the subject matter of his sermon as well as how he intends to apply it to those in attendance. When time to deliver the message, he should do so as though it could be his last sermon, full of heart and enabled by the power of God. With this mind-set, the responsibility of preparation and investment ends with a church body's leadership and excuses the rest of its members. To the bulk of the membership, the message is that no investment is required but a return is to be expected. In accordance with this philosophy, the church member feels no obligation to prepare in any respect prior to the service being held. Furthermore, the saint minimizes the impact of his participation once the service has begun. We would not recommend this behaviour in any other area of life and yet we find it commonplace in our approach to our collective worship of God.
What could be different if we adopted a more biblical philosophy? What if we believed the success of the church service was dependent upon the prayers of all the saints in that local body (even those who are providentially hindered from attending the service)? What if we considered that the collective fellowship with God held by the congregation during the service might be impacted by the individual fellowship with God enjoyed by each saint throughout the week? What if we determined that we would only get out of the service what we first invested in the service, whether that be in the area of fellowship with others, attention paid to the sermon, or participation in the corporal worship in song? What if we thought our being greeted, treated kindly, and enjoying the company of others was given in accordance with our greeting others (including visitors), treating them kindly, and making them feel welcome in our presence? What if the overall attitude of the people was impacted by our attitude? In other words, what if we thought our return was determined by our investment?