Don’t Spiritualize Your Slacking

Last Sunday I asserted that our church, like the church in Colossae, has a mission problem. We are not living out the mission of God as he intends us to. To substantiate this point, I observed that while our Sunday attendance this fall is near 400, only about a fourth of that number are giving anything financially or pursuing church membership, and only about half are connected to a missional community.

Every time I make observations about giving or membership (which isn’t really very often), I can sense that I’m touching the third rail. People start getting defensive. Lots of people seem to feel like they should be able to hang out at a church as long as they want without being challenged to join the mission by becoming members, giving, and serving.

For non-Christians, skeptics, de-churched people, and those still detoxing from bad experiences in American evangelicalism: you bet. Hang out as long as you need. That’s part of gospel hospitality, and that’s what it means for us to be a missional church. (And after all, our whole paradigm for discipleship is relational, so you have to hang around for awhile to get involved.) But for those who don’t fall into those categories, here’s my plea: Don’t spiritualize your lethargy. It gets tiring as a leader to consistently hear things like “I just don’t feel the Spirit leading me that way” or “I’m still praying about it.” Christians are skilled at making excuses that would sound ridiculous in any other context.

In a conversation between services, a thoughtful friend of mine was asking some good questions, and I used a common-sense example that seemed to help. She works at a coffeehouse. I asked, “Suppose someone comes into your coffee shop, camps out at a table, logs onto the wi-fi, and uses the restroom – but never buys anything. That’s not cool, right? I mean, technically, someone can do that – it’s not illegal or unethical. But you would still consider that person a freeloader.”

“Yes,” she replied. Same deal at church. More people showing up means more resources being expended: more volunteers, more materials, more time, and eventually more staff and more space needed to facilitate the work of mission and discipleship. If many of those people are professing Christians who are not practicing biblical rhythms of giving and serving, there’s no difference between them and a coffeehouse freeloader.

So hey, professing Christians: if you are benefiting from the ministry of a church without supporting it, at least have the integrity to say so – and to amend your ways. Don’t spiritualize your objections. If the coffeehouse barista challenged you for taking up space without buying a drink, you’d think that was fair. Give your pastors the same latitude. The work of the gospel may not be as tangible as a cappuccino… but the same rules apply.


Leave a Comment

  1. Is there some sort of percentage that members should be striving to give to support the church out of their total monthly income?

  2. As I was checking back to see if there was a reply I realized a typo, which was that I wrote “member” in my inquiry. I still consider myself very new to understanding my walk with Christ, but know that I wouldn’t be considered a true convert quite yet, but I do consider myself to be a part of Coram Deo Community. So the question is still the same but for that middle ground person that is working towards their conversion?

  3. I’m fairly new to Coram Deo. After talking with you Bob, I have a pretty clear understanding of how leadership development works at the church. However, I haven’t seen much on how to become a member. My wife and I are ready to talk to the church about how it works. It’s possible that some people just honestly don’t know how to take that step. If it was explained to them, that could be all they need to make the move. Saying this, I admit the possibility that there might be a very clear explanation on how to become a member somewhere that I have missed. But then, I suppose there might be other fairly new people that have missed it as well.

  4. Okay, Bob – I’m saying so. Practically speaking, I am getting our financial house in order so that we can tithe biblically. It’s comparable to trying to turn around a speeding freight train. I’m throwing off the extra baggage as fast as I can. Would have been easier to travel more lightly and take the right course from the start. In other words, I regret not making sacrifices and wise financial decisions beginning 20 years ago. My extreme loss.

    It sucks that you have to address this issue at all. In light of this article: , it’s pretty apparent what we (I) do (or do not) treasure in America.

    Lastly, I know there’s no double standard – you do hold yourself, staff & church planters financially accountable as well, as evidenced by a recent post. I hope, I pray, CD is blessed by faithful & sacrificial giving soon, including mine. After all, it must be the most tangible fruit of your labor as pastors.

    PS This has been a difficult exercise in humility, which might explain why others are not commenting. I’ll say it again… it sucks. Worse than being called out in the middle of a trendy coffeehouse. :0)

  5. Deanna – thanks for leading by example. Erick – what Lane said. Daryl – see a previous post for more:

    I appreciate the specific, personal application by you three. This post was intended more generally to get after the spiritualized excuses that Christians often make (and that I hear every time I mention these things).

    Those of you who are progressing toward connectedness, giving, membership, etc – much grace and affirmation to you.

    Just longing to see Joe Average Christian give churches and their leaders the same level of respect he gives the local coffeehouse.

  6. It will take time. CD is a young church with lots of new believers. A favorite church in the south is 20 years old, has never “taken” an offering (has a BOX like CD) and now has 12,000 people hearing the Word in 4 locations, with ministry around the world. The pastor said he never could talk about money. And got brought in $35 million for a state of the art sanctuary. The church is like Mars Hill, with goals of hundreds of churches birthed in 20 years. They are on line, live, 4 times a weekend at their services, with 2000-3000 people online worship and learning the Word.

    Membership: I agree about knowing how it all works: It’s difficult, as a newbie, to know those things. There is no usher or anybody to help. Why not offer the membership packet free, instead of $5.

    In spite of all the gloom and doom stats re: CD, God is at work. He is sovereign and there is no panic in heaven. Take heart, leaders, and keep pressing us into the Word!

Leave a Reply