In 1974, Burger King made a bold move to take market share from McDonald's. At the time, McDonald's made burgers en masse. If you wanted a special order, you had to wait interminably while it was cooked separately.
I remember. I'm a ketchup-only kind of guy.
So Burger King announced that each order would be cooked at the time of the order the way the customer wanted. Their new slogan was "Have It Your Way." Burger King, at least at the time, understood the consumer entitlement mentality.
So what does this story have to do with our churches?
It provides a brief historical backdrop of the mentality that has crept into our churches, where many of our members think church is a place where I can always "have it my way." For now, let me share some key reasons many of our congregations have become more like country clubs than churches, a place where some members demand their way instead of serving and self-sacrificing.
- Failure to state clearly the expectations of church membership on the front end. A membership class, or some similar entry point into churches, should not only give information about the church, it should provide expectations about membership. Membership without expectations becomes membership with entitlements.
- Failure to make certain as possible that members are Christians. Sadly, we church leaders often neglect to discuss the spiritual conditions of prospective members. Are they truly followers of Christ? As a result, many of our churches have unregenerate members.
- Seeking numerical growth at all costs. We certainly should be Great Commission churches. We certainly should be inviting people and sharing the gospel. But if our end goal is numbers, we will make compromising statements to bring people into our churches. We should seek to grow our churches out of obedience to God, not to create our own kingdoms.
- Failure to remind the congregation regularly what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. All of us church members have the potential to lapse into self-serving, entitlement members. We all need to be reminded that church membership is not about perks and privileges but serving and sacrifice. I have been encouraged to see many churches have annual renewal and commitment services.
- Allowing the most entitled members into positions of key leadership in the church. One of the more common manifestations of an entitled church member is a person who seeks to gain power and leadership positions in a church so he or she can control and get his or her own way. We yield to them too often because they might be big givers or because we don't have the fortitude to resist their bullying behavior.
- Failure to deal with difficult issues. Church leaders too often are conflict avoiders. And while we shouldn't pick a fight over every issue of minutia, neither should we allow a pervasive culture of entitlement, bullying and manipulation to grow unabated. A problem not handled now is a larger problem later.
The biblical mandate for local congregations is counter-cultural. In many passages of the New Testament, such as 1 Corinthians 12, we are clearly taught that members are to be sacrificial, giving and serving.
Such a mentality goes counter to the culture in which the church ministers.
Church is not about having it our way.
It's about bringing glory to God by having it His way.
Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.
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