Using Others For God’s Sake

It’s not about you.
This is so hard for we North American-Christendom-Church-Insider-People to recognize and accept.
But we see it all the time….churches anxious about their budgets, their numbers, and their institutional strength. This anxiety goes directly into their “evangelism” efforts. Their answer to their organizational dilemmas is to “get more people here.” The result = The Church becomes known in our world as self-focused; more interested in institutional maintenance than the good news of the gospel. We end up using people for God’s sake (running our church); doing harm to the Christian Movement. Using others to meet our institutional needs is wrong on so many levels; the following are but a few.

Trying to involve people in our church in order to strengthen us as an organization is not anything even close to evangelism. Jesus’ call is to love one another and make disciples….not to engage the general public for what they can do for us. The gospel of Jesus Christ is so beautiful because it’s about love. God loved us so much, that God abandoned the privileges of being God, becoming a servant. This is Jesus’ expectations for his disciples; that we imitate him, as servants. The Church is called to serve the world in love, not to squeeze every last drop (money, time, effort) out of others in order to help us be a “strong” church. Our calling is to express love for “them,” rather than selfishly use them to meet our needs.

Trying to involve people in our church in order to strengthen us as an organization is highly unattractive, driving seekers away. While standing at the door greeting worshippers as they were leaving, I heard one gentleman say to a first-time visiting family, “Come back again. You could get involved and become a deacon in this church.” The visitors were young and appeared to fit the socioeconomic category this gentleman was looking for to repopulate this declining congregation. He believed this would entice them (though Postmodern people don’t care much about position in organizations), helping to build institutional strength. I watched their confused facial expressions, while they mumbled something in response, uncertain what to say. They never returned. Desperation is never attractive. People can smell it in the water, swimming for the shore as quickly as possible. If you want to run visitors and seekers off, treat them as objects who are their to help solve your problems.

Trying to involve people in our church in order to strengthen us as an organization demonstrates fear, not faith. Fear in our culture is so thick one could use the proverbial knife for cutting. Unfortunately, way too many churches observe the cultural trends in North America, then give themselves over to fear. It’s remarkable really. The very organism and faith community which was told the very “gates of hell could not prevail against it,” is often playing defense. It’s like some forget who we are, thinking our institutional strength is the reason for our existence. Some churches have lost their souls, not in the healthy life giving manner of laying down our lives for Christ. Instead they have sold their souls to the Modern Era organizational paradigms for church.

Trying to involve people in our church in order to strengthen us as an organization provides very temporary motivation for interest in others (if we can even call it “interest”). Suppose a desperate church’s attempts to engage more people actually “works.” They increase their membership, participation, and offerings. Their sanctuary becomes comfortably full for worship. They move to a place of institutional strength with plenty of buildings, bodies, and budgets. The more this kind of “progress” rises, the more this church’s interest in others declines. They reach a point when they don’t need others to feel good about themselves, influencing their interest in others towards decline.

Trying to involve people in our church in order to strengthen us as an organization discounts the gospel. This is the bottom line. We have to ask ourselves if this is what the good news is about. Is this what Jesus envisioned for us? Was this worth leaving heaven, taking on flesh and blood…so that our organizational metrics could succeed? Was this worth the precious life of our Savior and Lord? Is this what Jesus had in mind?

May God forgive us for using others for our sakes.
May God forgive us for believing it’s about us.
May we cooperate with God’s vision for God’s Church.
May we give ourselves away in response to this amazing grace we call the good news.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA