By Thom Rainer
“Once one realizes they are entitled to nothing, they become grateful for everything.”
I never planned to write the book.
It began as a midnight attempt to get a 500-word blog post done for the next morning. I called it “I Am a Church Member.” When I closed the keyboard that night, I had zero expectation of any significant response.
I was wrong. The blog post went viral. It hit a nerve in congregations around the world. Shortly thereafter, I wrote a little book by the same name. It became a number one bestseller and has sold 1.5 million copies to date.
My premise was simple and basic. I went to Scripture to delineate the characteristics of a healthy church member. The responses to the book and the blog post gave me an acute awareness of the dearth of healthy church members in many churches. The opposite of a healthy church member is an entitled church member. He or she sees the church as an organization that doles out perks and benefits somewhat like a country club. The church, therefore, exists for the members rather than the members serving sacrificially as the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12).
What are some of the negative consequences of this entitlement mentality? Let’s begin with six of them.
- More conflicts and church fights. When church members have an entitlement mentality, they get angry when they don’t get their way. It thus leads to conflict and even church fights.
- Pastor and staff perceived to be hired hands. Forget the idea of the pastor/teacher equipping the saints to do the work of ministry. Entitled members view them to be workers paid to all or most of the ministry. “After all, that’s what we pay them for.”
- Keeps the focus off the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Entitlement is self-focused. The Great Commission and the Great Commandment are other-focused.
- Creates unhealthy alliances. Entitled church members often form alliances with other church members of similar unhealthy mindsets. They are called cliques and power groups. They can be members of an extended family, or they can be a diverse group of members simply determined to get their own way.
- Turns giving into dues. The money given to the church is not done so with open hands. It has strings attached, and those strings will jerk the money back the moment entitled church members do not get their way. (See my earlier post on giving versus dues.)
- Turns the church facility into a shrine. When members insist on getting their way, the church facility becomes an object of their own desires. The fight could be over a color of paint or carpet, a parlor or bride’s room, chairs versus pews, or the pulpit itself. The sad possibilities are endless.
I have a burning passion to see churches revitalized. In many ways, it’s really about the revitalization of the hearts of church members. And those hearts must transform from me-centeredness and conditional to other-focused and unconditional.
Then, and only then, will our churches experience true revitalization.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on Sept. 17. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and ten grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.