It’s an old church saying. I remember hearing it several times in my childhood,
There are two types of people in church: pillars and caterpillars.
The pillars uphold the church. They’re the every Sunday attenders, the dedicated tithers, and the people who actually pray for you when they say they’ll be praying for you. They embody the fruit of the Spirit and are actively seeking out ways to serve others, especially the least of these.
Then there’s the caterpillars. They “crawl” in
late on Sunday morning, drink some coffee, sing a few songs, and then crawl back out before the service is actually over.
I remember hearing this as a kid in church and looking around to see very few caterpillars.That was kind of the point, I guess. God loved pillars more and if you happened to be one of the unlucky caterpillars who crawled in that week you had better figure out how to be a pillar in a hurry so you could fit in with the rest of us pillars.
Now, honestly, I’m not so sure I’m a pillar and I’m a pastor. I try my best to be and I know in many ways I am. For example, giving/tithing has never been a problem for me. There have been months and years where it’s been harder to give than others but consistent obedience in that area of life has been extremely rewarding. Some of my friends really struggle with the idea of giving, though, for a myriad of different reasons. Many of these friends do a much better job than me of consistently cultivating a gentle spirit.
Maybe there should be a third type of church person, some sort of caterpillar/pillar hybrid. Maybe most of us belong in this third category, or at least at different points along a spectrum between the two.
The pillars are undoubtedly integral to the church. Without them, the church simply cannot exist. Dating back to the time of Jesus, the church has always had members who go above and beyond. They give more of their money, time and resources than the average church attender. There’s a statistic that’s generally true in many churches: 80% of the church’s ministry is accomplished by 20% of the church. This same 20% usually funds 80% of the ministry.
They’re often the…
- thankless volunteers
- consistent attenders
- ones laboring in prayer for their church and community.
- ones who listen attentively to sermons, not because it’s polite, but because they come expecting to hear the gospel heralded from stage every week, because they are keenly aware of their constant need for it.
One of my favorite moments in ministry came when I was meeting with a group of pillars. They told me, “Steven, we’re going to be here whether you are or not. We’re stable. We love Jesus, our church, and our community. We can serve you as a steady core of people that can provide you with a safety net of sorts to fall back on. So let’s be risky. Let’s do new things to reach new people with the Gospel.”
As a pastor, pillars really encourage me.
But I LOVE caterpillars. I think I love caterpillars so much because I don’t really know what it’s like to be one. I’ve been in church my whole life so I have never felt the anxiety many caterpillars have to overcome when stepping foot in church, or back in church, which can be even harder.
Caterpillars are often the…
- ones with a past other Christians couldn’t look past
- ones who are frequently and unfairly judged
- ones terrified to walk into church
- ones who are new or skeptic towards faith, unsure of the next step but they’re trying
- ones with the most to lose if they were to make their faith with Jesus public
I love caterpillars because I know there are much more of them in our world and in our churches, than pillars.
Jesus loves caterpillars and pillars. He loves when caterpillars grow into pillars to reach more caterpillars.
I love Jesus because he never gets stuck hanging out with the pillars too much. That can be a common temptation for Christians, to only surround ourselves with people that think, act, and believe just like us.
I love Jesus because he spends much more time with the caterpillars. The skeptics. The non-believers. The disenfranchised. The disillusioned. The rebellious. When Jesus was in deepest need of encouragement, he retreated with some pillars, for a brief time. But he always found the bulk of his mission among the caterpillars.
So…what type of church person are you? A pillar or a caterpillar? (See: 6 Questions Every Christian Needs to Answer)
If you’re a pillar, stay the course! Don’t forget to look to the caterpillars around you, to call them into a deeper walk with Jesus. Your tireless efforts truly count in the kingdom of God and nothing you do, no matter how small, goes unnoticed.
If you’re a caterpillar, be encouraged! Some of us have no clue what it’s like to overcome some of the obstacles you have in between you and faith. But thankfully Jesus has overcome all those for you and so much more. So, take your time exploring Jesus. Seek out truth and your identity within a community. See: Can You Love Jesus and Not the Church?
You’ll see in time that he’s faithful. But don’t take too long. We need you to grow into a pillar so we can keep advancing the kingdom in our world. God is excited to know you and use you right where you are. See: The Underground Church in…Texas?