Some years back, while watching a news program, I was struck by a statement about our country’s war in Afghanistan.
Less than 1 percent of our (military) people are in that country fighting. The American people are not invested in this war.
I thought that was an interesting phrase. Invested in a war.
What exactly does that mean? and is there a message here for those of us in the ministry?
The statement meant the American people were not aware of what was going on in that Middle-Eastern country, which meant the struggle there felt remote and distant, and consequently were not supporting it as they would normally.
Most Americans had no personal stake in that war. When we’re unsure of the issues and uncertain of our goal, when we do not know anyone who is putting his/her life on the line there, and when we have no personal ties to anything, we are uninvested.
Who remembers the Second World War?
World War II movies, especially those made during the early 1940s, actually pulled American citizens together to support their fighting men and women.
In the 1940s, every town in America sent the cream of its youth to the fight. Every radio was tuned to the latest news. Gold stars shone from windows to say this family had lost a son in the service of his country. Dads and grandfathers followed developments with maps on the wall. Drives for metal, rubber, paper and even fats and grease were conducted in every community. Schoolchildren bought savings stamps and housewives contended with ration books.
It seemed that every citizen of this country was enlisted to fight that war. They were invested.
To be invested in a war means you are involved, you have made a sacrificial contribution, you have a personal stake in what’s going on and you care how it turns out. Nothing is too remote, too distant for you not to care about. Day and night your prayers ascend that this fight would soon end.
Some churches are invested in the Lord’s work
Let’s imagine two fictitious churches. First, we have the Church of the Stagnant-and-Bored. You’ve seen members of that congregation. You know how they look…
–the people attend worship out of a sense of duty. They’re checking it off the list, and can’t wait to get home to watch the football game or take their afternoon nap.
–there’s precious little joy in the singing and very little interest in the sermon.
–requests for volunteers either go unheeded or draw feeble responses accompanied by weak protests.
–the offerings have been declining year after year.
–few new people are joining this church because there’s little to attract them. The fellowship is anemic, the evangelism non-existent, and spontaneity unheard of.
The second congregation we will call the Church of the Redeemed-and-Glad-Of-It. The members are invested in every detail of their ministries…
–because they care deeply about their Lord and Savior, their worship is enthusiastic, their praise exuberant, their joy contagious.
–because they care strongly about their fellow man, their ministries are exciting and their evangelism efforts anointed. They regularly see people turn to Christ.
–the offerings are rarely as much as the leadership wishes, but only because they keep coming up with bigger and bigger challenges. The people are giving sacrificially, as well as joyfully.
–griping may occur from time to time, but is at a minimum. Members feel a sense of ownership, that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” They do not point fingers at pastors or deacons and blame them for what is not happening. If it needs doing, they’re willing.
–people are joining this church at a hefty pace. Everyone wants to belong to a church family that is making a difference, even if the work is hard and the tempo hurried.
So, how do we change?
How would the leaders of your church go about getting people invested in the work of the Kingdom?
Here’s a clue from our Lord Jesus:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
As a young pastor, I recall reading that last line and thinking the Lord had it backward. It made more sense to think that wherever our heart was, that’s where we would place our treasures. And in one sense, that’s correct.
But there is a deeper truth here. Our Lord is saying if we wish to become more invested in His work, we should place our treasure in the Kingdom.
The daughter of a pastor friend who has excellent dramatic skills and a new college degree spent much of the summer at an arts camp in Europe. When she sent out letters seeking financial assistance, I sent my check. Consequently, even though my gift was not large, from time to time throughout the summer months I found myself thinking about her and lifting her to the Father.
I was delighted to hear of her interaction with non-Christians in the camp and of her burden for telling them of Jesus.
This ministry mattered to me for one over-riding reason: I had become invested in her.
There’s no way of knowing, but I think it’s safe to conclude that friends who did not contribute to her summer project rarely gave her a thought and did not pray for her.
That’s the difference in the Church of the Stagnant-and-Bored and the Congregation of the Redeemed-and-Glad-Of-It. In the first, the people have made little or no investment in the work; in the second, their very lives are invested.
Conclusion: if we want people to care more about the Lord and His church, encourage them to give more of themselves and more of their possessions to the work.
This means–I say this to pastors and teachers–you’re going to have to do something you hate to do.
You’re going to have to preach and teach on stewardship. You’re going to have to swallow your pride and teach your people how to honor God with their resources and become generous givers.
If you fail them in this–if you refuse to preach and teach this aspect of discipleship–they will forever stay uninvolved, detached from the Lord’s work in your church, complacent about the outcome of the ministries, and spiritual dwarfs forever.
And I’ll tell you one more thing, pastor: If you fail them in this, they are going to be so angry at you at the Judgment for not telling them how to lay up treasure in Heaven.
We pastors are pretty self-centered, just like most of the people we know. We want people to like us. We hate criticism. And that’s why some of us make the unfortunate decision never to preach on stewardship, on tithing, on sacrificial giving.
I came across something Dr. Glenn Young, senior pastor of Clear Lake Baptist Church in Houston, wrote on the matter of giving of your income to the Lord’s work….
You don’t own it until you expend it! I know that sounds contrary to everything we have been taught. Let me qualify the statement. The Bible is clear that we should be good stewards of our possessions and Proverbs admonishes us to lay aside our increase for future days, so please don’t misunderstand me on this one. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount that “where our treasure is there our heart will be also.” That statement scares me! Jesus has turned my financial planning on its head just as He did the money-changing tables in the temple.
Just think about it. Whatever sits in your bank belongs to your bank, and benefits your bank, until you redeem it and apply it to your life! Until then it is just an abstract number on a spread sheet. Only when redeemed does it take on a tangible value for you and your family. At that point, it may multiply, if you manage it wisely; or it may provide needed goods and services, if you spend it wisely; or it may be squandered, if you are foolish with it. But it is really not yours until you expend it.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life fo me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).