Thoughts on entitlement in church


My wife and I attended a church in Rochester, New York for about six months.  In that short time we gave the church money, volunteered with the music team, and attempted to lead some small groups.  When we talked with the minister about joining, he gave us a four-page covenant to sign that spelled out the church’s expectations of membership.  Three-and-a-half pages covered what we were expected to do for the church (e.g., tithe, volunteer, etc.); half-a-page covered what we could expect the church could do for us (e.g., pray, offer Sunday School classes).

In our six months of attendance, we had valued that church, and did not believe we were entitled to anything from the church.  The implicit message of the covenant, though, suggested the church was entitled our money and time.  We stopped attending.

Some will say our decision to stop attending that church was selfish.  Duke Taber writes that too many Christians are uncommitted to the church.  We create excuses for not volunteering our time or money to the church, he says, indicating we do not see service to the church as a priority.  We treat houses of worship as entitlements to rather than as communities we nurture.  Christians who look for churches with the right “fit” treat churches as commodities we do not truly value.  “Ask not what the church can do for you,” Taber concludes.  “Instead ask what you can do for the church.”

But the churches that do not ask first what it can do for their members should not expect support from the Christians who ask what they can do for the church.  Christians are called to serve others selflessly, and our churches should be models of charity.  A church that focuses more on what its members need to do for it rather than on how it can serve others—unconditionally—is hardly a church at all.

Christians should not approach their churches selfishly, as if we demand our churches to cater to our fickle preferences and desires.  Rather, we should approach churches as the communities through we serve others.  Christians should not be church consumers—we should be church members.  We should be committed to the body of believers, and serve among them to help demonstrate Christian charity.  We should give our time and money to our churches.  We do this, not because churches demand it as a requirement of membership, but because the Christian faith compels us to.

But we should be shrewd about which church communities we invest our time, money and commitment to.  Do we want to join a church that says, “We prayed for you, visited you in the hospital, and served you coffee on Sunday mornings, so now we are entitled to your money and time?”

Or, do we want to be giving, committed members of a church that says, “We want to serve you with Christian charity.  No strings attached.  It’s our pleasure.  You’re welcome.”

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