“What would you like me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)
A servant asks: “What can I do for you?” “How may I help you?” “Can I do anything for you?”
But there is one question a true servant (as opposed to an employee) is not allowed to ask:
“What’s in it for me?”
My opinion is that the typical church in this country lives by the maxim: “If it doesn’t make us better or look better or feel better, we will not do it.”
What’s in it for our church?
I’m thinking of a little family in dire need of a healthy church and what it could provide for them. Over the years, a relative who is a pastor made a point of putting them in touch with at least one church in the various communities where they lived. Several of the churches responded well at first, then promptly dropped the family. Once they learned this family was going to be difficult, that they were not “low hanging fruit” (meaning “easy pickings”) they moved on. Once they found out this family was complicated and was not ready to join anybody’s church, they had no heart for the game.
The typical church loves to reach people who are reachable, who will fit within their fellowship, and will not require a lot of maintenance or difficult ministry.
The typical church–I am well aware of the dangers of using such a nebulous term, but please allow me the freedom to do so–lives for itself. The Kingdom of God ends at the edge of the parking lot.
Now, as a pastor of 42 years, I know the problem.
The needs around the churches are so overwhelming that the typical church parcels out a little of its love with a dash of compassion along with a touch of their helpfulness to all who come to them. Once they do this, if the object of their miniscule effort turns away–because this is what people caught in the clutches of sin often do at first, and sometimes repeatedly until they know you are “for real”–they move on.
People caught in the clutches of sin often reject your overtures of help and your offers of salvation at first. They are suspicious of our love and doubtful of our sincerity.
Often they are right to be so.
Churches are a lot like people–they come in all shapes and sizes and varieties. Some are pure gold and some are iron pyrite or plastic even. Some are more interested in compiling huge numbers than in loving one child or reaching a poor family.
So, it makes sense when an unbelieving family looks upon a church’s overture with suspicious eyes, at first.
Now, someone will quote the Lord as He wept over Jerusalem, “How often I would have gathered you together like a hen does its chicks, but you were unwilling….” (Matthew 23:37).
“We’re not going to force ourselves on anyone,” they say, as they proceed to mark that little needy family off their list. After all, didn’t the Lord instruct the disciples to “shake off the dust” from anyone rejecting their ministry? (Matthew 10:14)
“If they don’t like what we have to offer, they can find another church.”
Some churches get this right
Thank God for the occasional, rare, dedicated church led by a most unusual minister who will love that little needy family to the end.
That little family is in great need spiritually, but being dead in sin and trespasses (see Ephesians 2:1), they are unaware of their dire condition. Once in a while they show up in church. Something inside them is crying out, reaching out, to the love they are being shown by this Most Unusual Church, the congregation that refuses to go away.
The Most Unusual Church is the One That Is Not Going Away.
Thank God for the M.U. Church.
You find yourself praying the other churches–the ones we called “typical”–will awaken from their self-centeredness and quit living by the worldly maxim “What’s in it for me?” and begin to do something for the Kingdom.
A church “does something for the Kingdom” when it gives itself to those in need without a clue what the results will be. Their acts are all about faith, and that’s the right thing to do.
A church does something for the Kingdom when it does not count the cost before sacrificing itself for those it is trying to reach. Throwing all of one’s resources into rescuing one soul may go against the prevailing worldly philosophy of cost-effectiveness, but it’s the right thing to do.
A church does something for the Kingdom when it knows this family or that individual will probably end up joining another church but they still treat them as they would the Lord Jesus. Loving people purely and seeing someone else get the harvest can be discouraging, but it’s the right thing to do.
A church does something for the Kingdom when it holds hands with other churches–even across denominational borders–for a united voice in matters dear to the Lord’s heart. They will be criticized for neglecting doctrinal differences but it’s the right thing to do.
A church does something for the Kingdom when it recognizes that too much of its income is spent on catering to the desires (as opposed to the needs) of its members and takes steps to reverse this. It’s hard and not all church members will endorse the effort, but the right thing to do.
It’s always right to love one another (John 13:34-35). It’s always right to do something for Jesus rather than for ourselves. It’s always right to go out of our way to reflect well on the Savior even if it ends up costing us.
It is never right to seek first my kingdom before doing a thing.
“Lord, please help your church to get this right. Give us more and more Most Unusual Churches, please. Amen.”