“Think not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church!” A corruption of a famous JFK quote, but aptly adapted to an entitlement generation. Many will all too quickly forget that Jesus’ call to discipleship sees His followers yield to His call and mission, under the leadership of others, as a priority. Other needs, such as friendship, fulfilment and personal care, are met through serving and are not a condition of serving. In a bruised and unaffirmed generation, love remains a vital priority, but what it looks like is defined by the Church’s founder and not by its members. Such values cannot be defined by subjective expectations.
Friendships, of course, are valuable but they form around shared values expressed by doing and not just by belonging. Acceptance through unconditional love means we don’t earn the love of God or others, but this can’t then look like a package of expectations either. Pursuing the Christ of Scripture means pursuing a life of sacrifice, submission, serving and simplicity, which often fly in the face of a world that continually affirms ‘me first’ and focuses on what we deserve, need, want or should have. Christ owes me nothing, He has already paid everything. I owe Him my life, laid down, surrendered, undeserving.
Genuine care and concern in churches is enjoyed ongoingly in contexts of mutual support and encouragement that graciously welcome and accept people, but on God’s terms and not ours, within God’s mission and not a pseudo-mission. Some would sincerely and sadly expect that true love equates with being rushed by all and sundry when the chips are down. Leaders, though, don’t love doing mission above caring for people. Rather, they love caring for people in the context of doing mission. There may well be no place for leaders to say, “Meet me on my terms before you can serve Jesus with me,” but neither is there any place to say, “Serve Jesus on your own terms.” No-one, of course accepts that they do the latter, but the insidious social pressure to ‘have it all’ and to be ‘in charge of your world’ sees Western Christianity increasingly adopting a customised spirituality foreign to its biblical origins in the interests of being user-friendly, rather than Jesus-friendly.