by Terry Wane Benton
We were very young (24) when we first started preaching full time or "living of the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:7-14). God providentially put us in the right place (Berney Points in Birmingham, AL) for this early training ground. We needed to feel wanted and needed in this first attempt, and the members there were just the right combination for such a young couple venturing into this great and awesome work. Most of the members there seemed so happy to have us and treated us with love and warmth that energized us and gave us faith in the brethren.
Later, there were other places where we felt unwanted and unneeded, but this first work was crucial. Why was it different there and not other places? As I reflect back, I see that what was left of a church in a shifting population were members desperate to hang on. They needed each other to survive. They longed to hold on to each other, and they wanted us to love them, and they made their hearts love and encourage us. When a church is composed of members feeling a need to hang on and survive, they appreciate sound teaching, and they appreciate someone willing to work with them. Other places did not "need" us, and in some cases were divided and carnal enough not to want us or any other sound preachers of truth. We needed to feel needed and wanted, but some churches were not hungry and wanting spiritual unity in God's word.
Our first work was great in incubating and nourishing our needs while we tried to meet their spiritual needs. There was mutual give and take. That is as it should be. Other works were more like pulling teeth. We gave ourselves, but members did not want what we were trying to give. It became a situation of us giving all and receiving nothing back by way of mutual love and encouragement.
Preachers need to feel needed and wanted. They cannot keep giving and wondering if their efforts are appreciated, and never receive encouragement. They try to give themselves entirely to the word and try to feed and encourage souls. They are trying to equip the saints (Ephesians 4:11-16), but often face the reality that many of the "saints" don't want the equipment. They are not hungering and yearning to "keep unity" of faith, to keep the Lord's church together and flourishing.
I'm saying all of this to encourage all local churches to see themselves as needing to survive, needing to flourish, needing sound doctrine, needing sound teachers and preachers of the word, and showing each other that indeed we cannot say "I have no need of you" (I Corinthians 12:21ff). We all need each other for mutual encouragement, and local churches can only grow when we appreciate each other and what each has to offer to the group.
Don't take the givers for granted! They need you and your love and encouragement. They can't survive without you giving something encouraging back to them. Don't be takers, depleting the givers of energy and will to keep giving. Be givers back! All members should be givers and takers. Give energy and encouragement. All members need to feel wanted and needed, and all members need to sense an urgency to be givers and takers of spiritual energy to cause the growth of the body.
What are you giving to the local church to keep it going? Are you only a taker, depleting spiritual energy from the group? Or do you both give and receive and keep the church growing? Let us appreciate our givers and keep them encouraged that their labor is not in vain.