Disclaimer: I actually wrote this blog 2 years ago, but am just now sharing it. The post is especially relevant to the topic of OWNERSHIP at Live Oak right now.
I'm pretty frustrated today. I heard today that a family was going to be leaving our church, and that always bothers me. I don't think anyone should want to leave Live Oak, but I understand that people leave churches all the time.
People leave churches for a myriad of reasons - it's too far away, it's not like my old church, the music is too loud, we can't get connected, we're looking for something that's more "us," - but it is amazing to me how few people leave for Biblical reasons. (While there are many valid reasons to leave, truly, only a few are Biblical - bad theology, immorality, etc., but that's a different blog!)
But here is one of the reasons that I see masked in several excuses for leaving, and it drives me crazy.
People would rather JOIN a church than BUILD a church.
A few summers ago I bought a new grill from Lowe's - a big two barrel grill - a MAN grill. (It took me and two workers from Lowe's to load the boxes into my jeep!) When I got home, I pulled all of the parts out of the boxes and went to work. At one point Avery came into the garage to help, but I think the number of bolts, nuts, and instruction sheets overwhelmed her! When I bought the grill I had the option of having them assemble it for me at the store, but I wanted to build it. To me there is just something gratifying and fulfilling about putting something together. (Yes, I'm that strange guy that likes to put together the pre-fab dressers and TV stands!)
I think this is a lost mindset today in America. We expect everything to come out of the box put together for us. We get frustrated if things aren't "plug and play." When was the last time you had to pull something out of the box and actually work to put it together?
In the Ukraine, a friend of mine is building his house. Note, I said he is building it, I didn't say he was having it build for him. As he has time and money, he adds on to the second story of his house. He invites a few friends over and they go to work. If he doesn't have time or money he stops and waits until he can start building again. I'm not talking about adding a room here, I'm talking about adding a second story! I have been amazed to see his pictures over the last few years as the house has progressed from his persistence.
We just don't get that in America. If it says "some assembly required" we trend towards the "comes fully assembled" item, or at the very least we see if there is an option to pay someone else to put it together for us.
Unfortunately, I believe this "join" instead of "build" mentality is killing the church and weakening people's ability to grow their faith.
If our church doesn't have a strong program for our students we would rather join another church instead of build where we are.
If a small group doesn't meet on our schedule, we'd rather join another group instead of starting a new group.
If it takes too long for someone else to initiate a relationship at one church we'd rather join already existing relationships elsewhere instead of building new relationships.
It is just too much work, too much sacrifice, to actually build something. We want our church experience to come ready made, fully assembled straight out of the box. I think that's why church-hopping has become a common Sunday sport for many Christians. It isn't that they have a "competitive" spirit about churches, they just have a "comparative" spirit, and the church that stacks up the best to where I am right now is the church I want to JOIN. I once heard a very dedicated Christian family "church shop" us at Live Oak and ultimately decide to go somewhere else. When I asked them what drew them to the other church, their answer was, "We've done a new church work before and it's just too much work. We want to be in a place where we can simply go to church." It is much easier to JOIN than to BUILD.
This is also true in our discipleship, in following Jesus. We are quick to do the easy part of signing up for our faith (joining), but slow, if not resistant, to doing the work of growing up in our faith (building). We will often look for the easiest, quick-fix book, program, small group, or spiritual growth opportunity instead of the most rewarding, sometimes challenging, long-term, work-oriented option.
When Jesus sent His followers out, among many instructions He said, "Don't hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who WORK deserve to be fed." (Matthew 10:10). I know that passage focuses on something a bit different than this post, but don't miss the simple fact that being a disciple of Jesus takes work.
Following Jesus is hard. Being a part of a church, especially a healthy church, takes work … and we need workers.
If you are in a healthy church right now … if you are working hard to build the Kingdom of God in your life and in your community, then I applaud you.
If you are at a healthy church right now, sitting on the sideline watching others swing the hammer, get off your butt, grab a tool and get to work, it might just build your faith too.
And if you are simply jumping from church to church, looking to join up instead of build up, with due respect, don't bother coming to Live Oak; we're looking for OWNERS, not consumers.