28 September 2010

giving over receiving

When I was in college I remember a theology professor ask the question, When was the last time you chose which church you were going to attend based upon what you could offer the community? Since most people don't see their Christianity in such terms, I immediately thought of this as a question rooted in self-arrogance rather than humble servanthood. But that is because I had a false understanding of servanthood - and gospel.

We are called to be workers for the kingdom of God, which means that we are summoned to be active in living out the faith. When we participate in a church community we are thus expected - the the definition of our own faith - to be doers of the Word, which means we ought to have a ministry to offer the body of believers. This is not arrogance, but the proper outworking of Christian faith.

In the last few months I have seen and heard many people leave one church for another. Without exception each one of these did so on the basis of what they are missing from the community. Translation: I am not receiving enough for myself. None of them have mentioned God's summons to another ministry or a different work somewhere else. The Americanized 'have-it-your-way' mentality has certainly won the day for many evangelicals. In fact, it has become so problematic that I recently had a leader in the servant-based ministry of visitation decide to abandon our congregation because another is friendlier.

I always thought that living the gospel was more about giving than receiving. Not just in those moments where we have to give a Christmas present that is greater than that which is reciprocated, but as a general life principle. Aren't we supposed to model the behavior which we saw in Christ Jesus, who . . . (Philippians 2 . . .)?

Because I didn't readily see this in my own ecclesiology, I thought the initial question was arrogant. Probably this happens to many who are in a culture which simply has their thoughts about church mixed up. At the end of the day, I am not interested in 'us-vs-them' approaches, nor am I concerned with how many people are going to be in this church over that church. Those debates can be fought among those who care little about the gospel. As for me and my house/church, we will follow the directives of the gospel and reach those who are desperate for the love of God.

This, of course, leads to one other point which I will leave dangling. So many times I think that the very frustrations we encounter in ministry are the same reasons why God has called us to a particular time and place. For if everything were nice and neat according to our perspective, then what work would there be for us to do?


Anonymous said...


Rexmell said...

Doesn't the person doing the giving have the right to expect that he should also be a recipient of someone elses giving, and if he is not, doesn't he have a duty to find a place where his giving is reciprocated?

:mic said...


You raise a logical point, but there is still something missing when the needs of self outweigh the needs of others. This appears more like loving myself like myself rather than loving my neighbor as myself. Certainly the needs of the individual are important and should be met, but within the framework of being called to Christian service I am convinced that it falls underneath servanthood.

rexmell said...


In my question, the needs of self are on the same level as the needs of others, not above others, which is what is commanded in the Jesus Creed. But I believe you are right, we should put others needs higher than our own, not just equal to, Phil 2:3.
I was reflecting on 1Cor 12,with the analogy of the church being like a body. If one person is a foot, or an arm, and there is no eye or mouth, the body will be severely disabled, but, Thank God, as long as Jesus is the head of the body, he has the power to heal and restore the body to where it is a vibrant funtioning body of Christ. That is my prayer for the Church. rexmell