By Alan Davis
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Today’s economists tell us that we are living in a time that has one of the lowest rates of personal economic investments since the time of the Great Depression. For one reason or another people are not investing their money and slowly building a nest egg for bad times or retirements. Many have to work much longer in their lives than they thought due to the lack of personal investment and the state of our economy. Those who study such trends tell us that it appears that things will only grow worse.
A common saying in our day is that most American families are just one paycheck away from homelessness. That may be a bit of hyperbole but it may be close to the truth. Some of the results in our recent banking troubles in America were a result of many younger families “biting off more than they could chew”, attempting to get the American dream home in a prestigious area, and also banks that were foolish enough to make such loans. We have some who come out of high school or college and expect to receive high paying jobs and are disillusioned when they realize they must “climb the ladder” and their paychecks may not be as large as their peers who have “paid their dues” with years of service, continued education and hard work. Then reality hits again when they realize they may have to settle for a 1300 sq ft home in a working class community, or forbid, they must start out in a manufactured home instead of that 3000 sg ft custom home in a prestigious area. It seems many are coming to the starting line of the adult world and expect to get to bypass having to invest their lives, time and money for the American dream. Many are unwilling to make the investment and risk of their lives and resources so they try to circumvent the system, riding on someone’s coat tails to get ahead. Many would have others pay the price for them so they can reap rewards that should take many years of toil and sacrifice. It seems they have a feeling of entitlement to the things of life with no investment on their part. We have a generation of spenders instead of investors, and this will never bode well for the generations to come.
I am not an economist but I am a theologian. The same trend we have seen with the American dream as it pertains to money, careers and possessions is the same trend we see in church life in America. As a pastor, I see many people come through our church as they “church shop” for the church with just what their flesh and the family’s flesh desires. They come in with a mental “shopping list” of what they are looking for. Most of the time it never has too much to do with solid Biblical preaching, teaching, articles of faith of a church, membership accountability or our strategy to win the lost in our community to Christ. A few will ask if we have mission opportunities (some lately have joined us because of that, praise the Lord!). Many who come for these things have stayed, for these are our focus, our vision for a New Testament Church. Not all are shopping to please their flesh but are truly seeking God’s direction for their families.
However, many come and pass on through. Not that they were not contacted by different people and groups in the church and made to feel welcome. Not that they didn’t receive enough information about our church and our gospel vision. It seems many move on because they come expecting the “Mall Church” where one can get about anything one wants out of a church, whether it is biblical or not. Many have come to expect the church to cater to them and to never really put much of an investment in building the ministries of the church themselves. They want “cool youth groups”, not really gospel centered ones, that they will be asked to be leaders in. They want a spiritual child setting service with the expectation that the Sunday School teacher will do all the spiritual stuff. Many have defaulted the spiritual development of their children to the “Church Professionals” (whatever that is) to the neglect of their Biblical responsibilities. They want the church they choose to have a music program second to none already in place. They want all the kinks worked out of the plans and programs of the church with no effort from them. They want the best Bible teaching with no responsibility placed on them. In short they are “spenders and not investors”. Some are rather bold about their demands for the “Burger King Church, have it your way”. One particular man said he would consider joining our church if I would back a particular political agenda on our church marquee! Even though I certainly sided with his view of the political agenda, I detested his view of membership blackmail. Needless to say the marquee was never used for his agenda and he has moved on.
The “Mall Church” shoppers remind me of the eastern tenderfoots and carpetbaggers during the settlement of the American frontier. They waited in the comfort of their towns and villages while the real pioneers went out and forged a hard living out of the wilderness; toiling night and day against the elements, working long hours and some days seeing little results; battling the elements and the natives, some losing their lives; suffering in many different ways for years all the while investing their lives into a dream. Sacrificing themselves and their families on something they saw as much bigger than themselves, a vision for the good of all. My family was one of those families and coming from that kind of stock, I have little sympathy for the tenderfoots and the carpetbaggers. I’ve got to love them, and I do, but I don’t like the way they act or live, not those long ago and not those today. They wait for others to build the towns, clear the land, burn the brush, plant the crops, build the schools, form a government, and then they come to spend what others have invested.
Now some may think me too cruel, and that is OK, because those folks will keep people like me in spiritual check. But the church today is in need of more investors and less spenders. We are called to “be a living sacrifice” which is our “reasonable service” . The “Mall Church” shopper would hardly ever consider sacrificing for the good of the church. This type of church shopper never stops to think how the church got such a good music ministry – it was because people came and practiced when there wasn’t but 10-14 in the choir. They remained faithful year after year in their work and prayer till they saw the fruits of their labors. The “Mall Church” shopper never stops to think how the church got such a good system of connection with visitation – it was because there were some dedicated people who came and prayed and visited, even if they happened to be the only ones for long periods of time. They never stop to consider how the church got such a dedicated group of seniors or youth. Someone came before them and worked very hard night and day. They were willing to risk time and effort and money to see the vision of the church come to pass. In short, the church that has a solid gospel center in all its ministry, has had some people who have sacrificed for years to get it that way. It will not be perfect, but it will continue to plow in God’s field. It will need to adjust from time to time to remain gospel centered but that’s Ok, because it will adjust with God’s guidance. Give me a church with a few of God’s pioneers and it will be worth much more than one with a thousand “carpetbaggers”. The question is, are you a spender or investor? Are you willing to be a living sacrifice for the glory of God in the local church or will you keep shopping, looking for that special church that has everything already in place so you never have to sacrifice for the cause of the church?
Pastor Alan Davis
Woodland Baptist Church
January 21, 2013