The mentality that is killing your church

All this missions stuff is okay, I guess. But what’s in it for us?

Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth laborers into the harvest.’  And the disciples said, ‘Why? What do we get out of it, Lord?'”  (Matthew 9:37-38 with a small insertion by moi to make the point.)

“Behold,” Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues, and you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.”  And the disciples said, “Let’s skip that part and get to the part where you reward us.”  (Matthew 10:16ff with my insertion.  The part about rewards comes in the last verse of the chapter.)

Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist, “Go and report what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear.  The dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  And the Lord’s disciples said, “Okay, enough about these losers, already.  Tell us about the blessings you have for us.  Who gets to sit on your right and who on your left?” (Matthew 11:3ff, with my tongue-in-cheek foolishness.)

I was reading one church’s minutes from a century ago.  In a business meeting, the clerk told of a request for ten dollars from a new church in Texas. This was back when ten dollars was two hundred. After voting to send the money, the secretary said, “This spirit of generosity was put to the test when someone pointed out the church fellowship hall needed renovating.”  As I recall, they ended up spending $2,000 on that project.

“What’s in it for us? ” is the prevailing principle of decision-making for too many churches.  Denominational leaders and professional fund-raisers know that to be successful in their promotions, they have to convince churches that this project will reap great rewards for them personally.  It’s not enough to do something for the kingdom.

It’s not sufficient to do something to please God, honor Christ, or obey the Spirit.

Show me how this will benefit us.

And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued, or declining.

We wonder why so many congregations go to church, log many hours in activities each week, and still feel unfulfilled.

We wonder why churches run off pastors who are not meeting their needs, not leaving them with warm feelings after sermons, not making them feel better about themselves.

I cannot tell you the times I’ve heard someone pray in a worship service, “Lord, help us get something out of this today.”

As though it were all about them.

Warren Wiersbe has said, “It pays to worship.  But if you worship because it pays, it won’t pay.”  Worship is about giving to the Lord the glory due His name, about bringing an offering and bowing down before the Ruler of the universe and honoring Him. When we do this right, we walk away blessed.

Ironic, isn’t it?

The irony of this–“worship pays, but not if you worship for the pay”– is lost on a huge portion of the Lord’s people, I fear.  True, God wants to bless His children.  He said to Abraham, “I will bless you and make your name great, so you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). At no time did the Lord tell Abraham (okay, Abram) to focus on getting that blessing, or to keep praying that his name would be great.  “I will do it,” the Lord said.  Then, Abram’s job would be to be a blessing.

When we concentrate on being a blessing to others, God blesses us.

The mentality of our age is something else entirely…

Me–before you.  My needs before anything else, my wants and desires above all. How can I tithe when I still owe on my boat and luxury car?  Surely  the Lord doesn’t want that.

Us–before others. Our needs and our comfort take priorities. We need a strong home base here, and then we will be able to give more to missions.

All of us–before God.  God wants our welfare, doesn’t He?  He’s not honored if we are worshiping in something less than the best, right?

And thus do we justify our materialism, our self-centeredness, our negligence of the needs of a lost world.  Thus do we sanctify our disobedience.

So easily do we nullify the teachings of Scripture and discount the commands of our Lord.  (If this sounds vaguely familiar, you will notice in Matthew 15:6 that the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ generation were slammed for the same selfish error.  God is not amused.)

A church I know split over this.  Some of the leaders resented spending money on missions. Their philosophy, according to the pastor, was that the Great Commission meant they were to reach Jerusalem first, after which they were to branch out into Judea, then on to Samaria, and from there to the ends of the earth.  Live by that philosophy and Judea would still be waiting for the gospel.

There will be reward aplenty.  But the Lord is in charge of that.

Peter said, “Lord, we’ve left everything and followed you.”  He was leaving unsaid the question, “So, what do we get in return?”  Or, “What’s in it for us?”  Our Lord understood this and said, “There is no one who leaves houses or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for my sake and the gospel’s sake but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now…and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:28-31).

The concept of reward from God both here and now and “there and then” is found all through the Word.

“Our inner man is being renewed day by day. For this momentary, light affliction is working for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comprehension….” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

“In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

We do well to have the servant-slave attitude…

Early disciples introduced themselves as servants or slaves of the Lord. See Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1 and Jude 1.

Not that the Lord felt that way about His choice servants. They were faithful, honored, His friends, His beloved.  The point, however, is that they felt that way about themselves.

And therein lies the secret to faithful and effective discipleship.

The best way to understand this is found in the little parable of Luke 17:7-10.

The servant who comes in from the field is not told to go take care of his own needs first and the master’s second. Instead, he is instructed to go straight to the kitchen and prepare a meal for the master, then make himself presentable and serve it, after which he can see to his own needs. “Even so,” said our Lord, “when you have done all the things I have commanded you, say (to yourself) ‘I am only an unworthy slave; I’ve just done my duty.'”

This overlooked parable may be the one most needed by our generation of churches.

It requires a little self-talk.  The one who sees himself as a slave to Jesus does not work for reward.  He is rewarded just in serving the One he adores.  So, he tells himself at the end of a long, hard day, “I’m an unworthy servant; just doing my duty.”

Notice the Lord does not say that to us.  He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many” (Matthew 25:21,23).

Notice also that we are not to say that to one another.  Instead, we are to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7).  We are to acknowledge (appreciate) those who serve faithfully and sacrificially (I Corinthians 16:18).  And elders who serve well, we are told, are worthy of double honor (I Timothy 5:17).    They are not to seek that honor, but we are to give it.

The servant of the Lord who labors hard, serves sacrifically, and stays humble and sees himself as unworthy is a rare treasure.  Let us labor to be such.

Let those of us who teach and preach keep this great truth–and therefore this wonderful parable–before God’s people at all times.









2 thoughts on “The mentality that is killing your church

  1. Unfortunately, this is so true of much of our society today, which INCLUDES pastors AND churches (of many different denominations). We have become such a “me and I” society, where our very FIRST concern is ourselves, not someone else, NOR even Christ. We no longer see as many great servants, as we may have seen in past history.
    We seem to forget that this earth we reside on, is really NOT our true home, and that what we are to do is work more towards benefiting and building up our HEAVENLY home, versus this EARTHLY home. So, if it is our job to help build God’s Kingdom, then we NEED to be servants, FIRST…which means, NOT questioning what is in it for us!
    When we are the Lord’s servant, He will then provide for us and see to it that we are elevated in our Kingdom life. However, if we are more concerned with aquiring things for ourselves, here on earth, this is where they will stay, once He calls us home, anyway. Meanwhile, we have not contributed much to our next home, which is so much more important to do…whether this is through our financial support or simply time spent actually SERVING Him (which is equally important).
    We must always think of ourselves as servants, if we want gain…just as Jesus served His Disciples by washing their feet. No matter where in life we may be at (our personal status), we are to always keep in mind that we are to remain being servants to others. THAT is what God will honor, in the end…how much we did in HIS name, for Him to be glorified.
    As a whole, most of us have become too self-centered about ourselves; therefore, it blinds us to much of what IS important in life. We have lost perspective of the importance of what life really IS all about. It is NOT about us; rather it is about Jesus and obeying Him. Without Him, we are nothing! He really owns all we have and are; we are merely temporary care-talkers of all the things He has loaned us, over the years. Our mere lives, here on earth, are even just on loan, for He can “take us out”, anytime He sees fit. Therefore, it is our responsibility to do our best with the time He has given us, here on earth, to make sure that we are pleasing Him with our actions…which means, putting others and God’s Kingdom BEFORE our own wants…for HE will give us our NEEDS!
    Our Lord’s instructions to us are really quite simple, yet we humans have complicated them, over the years; only through our OWN pride and greed. We have made doctrines that are not even mentioned in the Bible, as well as rules and regulations that are nowhere to be seen in His Book. We have added words to, and taken words out of His Holy Book, as it was written (which is clearly what we are not to do). Every denomination WANTS to be the correct one, teaching the correct ways of God, while many times they are even believing it themselves, that they are.
    Less and less lay people (congregants) are actually reading the Bible for themselves to even KNOW if the things their denomination is teaching/preaching IS, indeed, what the Bible tells us, so now we have more mere “followers” of what people tell them…mainly because of
    LAZINESS on their part! Even with all the bibles we have in our nation, and the fact that we are free to read and study it, fewer and fewer DO! Yes, that IS a shame…because so many people in other countries need to go underground, to be able to do so, while risking their lives for Christ. They have much more of a “hunger” to learn about their Creator and Savior than we do; and, they do a lot better of SERVING! They have not yet experienced having all the material things that we may have, here, yet they have much more gratitude than most here in our country have. We have had it too good for too long, I think. Therefore, many of us have become too complacent, selfish, greedy and uncaring about others. We have forgotten about our Lord, and the fact that we are and have all we do, BECAUSE of Him. No one is really a “self-made” man, as we so often try to take credit for.
    Bottom line: this life is NOT about US; rather, it is all about Jesus…who so many of us HAVE forgotten, in our haste and business with our own well-being. That is how I see this to be.
    Thanks for allowing me to express myself! I am ever so grateful to live in a country where this is still possible. May we all learn to be much better servants, and may the Lord forgive our sins, individually, as well as our nation’s sins. Blessings in the Lord, to all. Shelom!

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