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?’” (Most of that is Matthew 9:37-38 but 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, “Enough of the negative stuff, Lord! Let’s get to the part where you reward us.” (Matthew 10:16ff with my insertion. The promise of 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 a church’s minutes from a century earlier. In a business meeting, the clerk read a request for ten dollars from a church start-up in Texas. This was back when ten dollars was two hundred. After voting to send the money, the secretary noted in the minutes, “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 admit 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.