Friday, June 20, 2014

Do we love things more than people?

I heard a powerful quote the other day which sent my mind in all kinds of directions, "People are created to be loved. Things are created to be used. Many of our problems stem from us getting this backwards. We love things and use people".

Wow!  This is so true and can be a problem in so many areas of our lives, from family to politics. We so often take advantage of people to get the things we love!  It is also a real problem in the church and is one of the main reasons people leave the church, never to return. When pastors use and manipulate their own members in order to get the things they think they need to be successful as a church or as a pastor, members of the church can sense that they are being used.  When that occurs, it's not long before they will be heading to another church or to never set foot in a church again. 

It may be one of the most common complaints I hear from Christians these days. For example, I was recently told, "I just feel so disconnected from the pastor and the church staff.  I am constantly asked to give money to this or that at the church and exhorted to participate in this campaign or this program but I can't remember when I was asked about me personally or even how I am doing spiritually."  
I had a conversation with a young man that had recently returned from a two year term on the mission field. He had grown up in the church that commissioned him.  He told me that he was very disappointed that once he got overseas, it was as if his home church had forgotten about him. No one ever sent a care package and there were no emails of encouragement. The only time he heard from the church staff was when they needed his help with a mission team they were sending his way. When he returned, many asked him where he had been. Most of the church never knew he had been sent on the mission field. He said wasn't expecting much but what he came away with was the feeling that he was being used, not loved or cared for. 

Leaders must be very careful not to love things more than people.  Especially in the church, we can get so caught up in leading, planning, preaching, evangelizing and sending missionaries, in order to make our goals, to grow our church, that we neglect the shepherding part of the ministry. And when we get word of a member's discontent, we often just dismiss their feelings as being selfish.  We have forgotten that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love people. If you fall into the trap of using your people to build your own kingdom, you can significantly damage the faith and the trust of those you are called to disciple.  

That is not to say we must not exhort and challenge our members to give, grow and be involved in ministry.  I also realize as the church grows, each member's voice can become smaller and it becomes impossible to stay closely connected to everyone. That is why it is so important to delegate the ministry and train up other leaders to minister to the members, in small groups or through ministry teams.  Creating community within the larger church is critical.

It really comes down to motive. What is my true motive for ministry?  Am I driven to succeed for the sake of success? If so, you'll probably use people to get there.  Or do I serve in ministry from a heart of loving people.  Will it help if I remind myself fairly often, that people are more valuable than any possession I may desire, including success and are to be loved and not used?  Search me oh God and help me not to love things. Grow my love for you and give me a heart to love people. 


Dave G said...

Thanks, John. It is such an unconscious thing. We don't wake up in the morning and deliberately "use people". We slip into that place when we forget.

For me, it must anchor itself to the daily remembrance that my God Story of Abba Father ("Daddy God"), pursued me, graced and forgave me, and now who allows me to walk with Him. It is personal...relational...redemptive...and does not allow for us to do anything but love because He first loved us.

Thanks for the reminder, John. It caused me to look into the mirror today.

John Walters said...

Well said, Dave. It is so easy to forget and live from the flesh, the old operating system instead of the spirit.

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