If there’s something wrong with the shirt I’ve bought, I take back to the shop. If the mechanic hasn’t fixed the car, I take it back to the garage. I’m a customer, I have paid, and I expect the level of service.
That model of thinking is so prevalent in a consumer society, that people thoughtlessly apply it to areas other than buying things. Giving, for example. It can be easy for even very generous people to confuse giving to the church with paying for the church. Once they do that they will start to complain about the church as if they were customers buying a product. They approach the childcare in church with exactly the same mentality as they approach childcare that they purchase for their children while they go to work. They expect similar standards, and they expect a similar result.
Now, of course we should encourage people to be good stewards of the money and resources they’ve been given, and we should practise good stewardship with the money and resources they have given us. At our annual meetings we show our accounts and we’re transparent over costs and salaries. And leave aside for moment the fact that there might be an issue to do with a paid staff member who is underperforming. That’s always possible, but not quite what I’m identifying. What we offer on Sundays is not purchased childcare, but one part of those chidlren’s discipleship. Our musicians don’t perform a concert, they help us praise.
The consumer mentality is so prevalent, we must train people out of it. Giving is not a transaction. If I truly give you something, I have lost control over it, and you are not obligated to me.
And I must train myself out of thinking of the members of the church as my customers who deserve a quality experience comparable to what they might get elsewhere, or I might lose their business. ‘The customer’s always right’ might apply to retail, but not to church.
There is a world of difference between acknowledging a shared responsibility for the money, and someone thinking that by the money they give to church they are buying a sermon, buying a service, buying whatever they use from church, which they can return if it’s not good enough.
How has money affected the idea of servanthood in your church?