The self-centeredness of the church should not be a surprise to those of us who have grown up in the church. But it seems, no matter how hard we try, we still want the focus on ourselves and our wants, not the needs of those outside the church. This is particularly evident when we talk about money in the church.
If a program benefits those outside the church, more than in the church, there is a sense we are cheating our people. When we give time, talent and treasure to those missions that can change the lives of folks outside our congregation in a powerful way, we question why do we do this mission?
Then there is the issue of it is easier to send money and aid to places far away, than to our neighbors across town. This one baffles me at times, we complain that we are not taking care of our own and then get upset that help goes to our neighbors who are in the same town, but not right next door.
Maybe it is that we are afraid of those who live on the other side of the tracks. Every city and town has those areas, North St. Paul, South Chicago, East L.A., North or South Omaha. These folks are our neighbors, but they frighten us more than those who live in African, Asia or the Middle East. Sometimes it is about color or economics, culture or history. Whatever the rationale for these fears, it keeps us from doing the mission we have been called to do by God’s Word as well as the example of Jesus Christ.
When churches are concerned about their budget and giving, they often times tend to go into siege mentality. They pull into themselves and turn inward in their vision. Mission beyond the doors of a congregation is seen as a waste of money.
Martin Luther describes sin as turning in upon ourselves, looking at only our wants and needs and not those of our neighbors. We feel we must defend what we have, restrict how we use our resources and sometimes this even extends into who gets to use the church building.
Everything we have comes from God. The church is God’s House, not our house, we get to call it home, but so does anyone else who wants to be there as a follower of Jesus. We gather in the church building so that we can leave the church building and proclaim the love of Christ in word and deed.
We don’t have to go far to do this, but we do have to go far enough. Jesus says; “What good does it benefit a person that we take care of only those we know or who we related to us, even non-Christians do that.” We are called to serve God by going to the stranger who is our neighbor. Whether they live in North or South Omaha, in a Native American Reservation or on the street, we cannot let fear impede us from doing the mission. Even if that mission doesn’t seem to benefit us at all. But God knows, that is enough.