I don’t remember the first time I played the guitar on stage, but I certainly remember the third. I was a new member of the worship team, and I was only just becoming comfortable playing on stage.

Halfway through the set, my string suddenly broke – a guitarist’s worst nightmare. Freaking out, I tried to continue playing, but the rest of the strings had gone out of tune. For some odd reason, I decided to continue playing, every chord sounding like nails on a chalkboard to my musically trained ears.

In the end, the sound crew cut me from the main monitors.

 After the set, I came offstage and was immediately approached by a senior member of the worship team. He berated me for a number of things:

“Why didn’t you change your strings before the set?”

“Why did you continue to play even though it wasn’t in tune?”

“Why didn’t you come offstage to retune your guitar?”

I packed up my things and hid in the nearby stairwell. I cried for about 30 minutes before I decided that not only was I going to leave the worship team – I would leave the church altogether.

After all, who was I if I wasn’t useful to the church? What would be my place within the church if I couldn’t serve anyone?

What is our place within the church when we’re not useful? Or fruitful? Or productive?

What is my place within the church if I can’t serve anyone?

It’s been eight years since then, and I’ve only just begun to see how much of my Christian identity is still built on my usefulness. (Note: I didn’t leave the worship team or the church in the end.)

I have since relinquished many of my responsibilities as I transition to a different season, but just being a member – not a leader, not a service coordinator, not a worship director – has become a hard thing for me to do.

So much of my church life was consumed by service, by taking on leadership roles, by shouldering more responsibilities. But now that I do not have those things, why do I still come to church?


“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:21-23 ESV)

From here we have the answer: To be a member of the church means to hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s it.

The Christian life is not based on our service, but it does look like people who serve and encourage one another.

It’s got nothing to do with your usefulness or your ability to contribute to larger organisational needs – it’s all about being who Jesus has made you to be, and about the people that He has made you one with through Himself.

Does that mean we’re not to serve our church? Surely not! In the same letter to the church in Colossae, Paul instructs them to admonish one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).

The Christian life is not based on our service, but it does look like people who serve and encourage one another.

In other words, we serve not to earn our place in God’s family, but because we have already been made a part of God’s family. This means that we need to be crystal clear of our identity as members of a local church.

At the centre of the Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what should motivate our service towards God and one another.


We know that the root of our belonging is not in our skill or talent, but in the gospel.

It frees us to serve each other unselfishly, without fear of failure or critique. It gives us the strength to love members who are difficult to love, the humility to submit to leaders who are difficult to submit to, and the grace to forgive and love those who refuse to admit they’re wrong.

After all, who are we?

We belong to the body of Christ not by our own efforts, but because God in His grace and mercy gave us His son Jesus, whom none of us deserves. And in Him, I have been given a family unlike any other. 

“Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30 ESV)

So often I forget that the source of my identity is not myself – it’s Jesus! And because it’s Jesus, I’m united to others who, too, have given themselves to Jesus.

Are you a member of your local church? What is at the centre of your church? What makes you a member of it?

 These are questions we need to answer if we’re to serve each other in genuine, Christlike love.

  1. What is at the centre of your church?
  2. What makes you a member of it?
  3. How have you resolved ministry difficulties?
  4. What is the right heart we should serve with?