Living for this World or the Other?

“to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:12 (NIV)~

“For three decades, maybe more, churches have been stripping themselves of compassion, community and commitment in favour of butts in the seats, bucks in the bank and broadening their sphere of influence. Once you feel like a number on an attendance sheet, a source of revenue or just one of many in a target group you are forced to ask yourself, why attend?” J. David Peever

The Western Church faces many challenges today not the least of which is a reduced number of “butts in the seats.”

Peever provides a harsh answer–but one we’d be wise to heed.

“At some point people just get bored. The entertainment loses its luster and the desire to leave the comfortable surroundings of the house disappears. For some this marks the end of regular attendance, while others continue to show up out of some sense of duty or tradition. Entertainment can inspire us, influence us, make us laugh or make us cry, make us feel good or make us feel guilty but the one thing it cannot do is make a permanent change in who we are.”

Church leadership, Peever asserts, sees the service “as a way to connect with people and with God but . . . [don’t] value people or God.”

It’s a simple diagnosis: The Church has been trying to connect without realizing that connecting occurs in truly valuing others. We don’t value others by entertaining them. We value them by serving them and calling them to service.

An example I read long ago: When you move into a new place, don’t offer to do a favor for your new neighbors. Ask them for a favor–even if it’s just the proverbial borrowing a cup of sugar.

When you do something for people, they feel beholden to you. That makes them feel uncomfortable. When they do something for you, they feel good about themselves.

That’s not to say we don’t fill needs as we see them. But part of filling someone’s need is helping him to see his own possibility and purpose.

The “butts in the seats”–all of us–need purpose in our faith. We need to feel useful, not just encouraged that God loves us. That’s important, but it’s far from all there is to living the Christian life.

The all-wise God knew that His love for us would require great sacrifice on His part.

He invites us, not to comfort and entertainment, but to sacrifice. To service.

If we issue that same invitation to fill the seats, we do better than inviting people into a fabulous showtime that lacks true connection, meaning, or purpose.

Our invitation is for others to live beyond themselves. We take our eyes off the comforts of this world, look to eternity, and invite others to do the same.

That’s how we value them. That’s how we value God.

Sarah Orne Jewett tells a story in which a community of women serve an outsider and learn this lesson:

“You know plain enough there’s somethin’ beyond this world; the doors stand wide open. There’s somethin’ of us that must still live on; we’ve got to join both worlds together an’ live in one but for the other.” 

Living in this world for our own sake is comfortable. Living for the other world isn’t always comfortable.

But it’s the richest life possible.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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16 Replies to “Living for this World or the Other?”

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Nancy. There’s a reason Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” When others begin to experience that blessing, they become inspired and want to pursue a life of faith.

  2. Excellent points Nancy! I would add that gathering in Christ’s name ought to involve each of us sharing what he is doing in our sphere. If there are too many “butts in the seats” for that, if the mortgage is too high for them, then maybe the group is too big to fit the model that Jesus set forth by choosing 12 to build into. If the only testimony is the one delivered by the “pro” up front, folks don’t really understand the message of the Word, and that God is no respecter of persons; that we are *all* called to behave as kings and priests indwelt by the very Spirit of God.

    1. Great points, Jon. And even a larger congregation can make that possible with small groups and sharing services where we invite people to tell us what God is doing in their lives. Thanks and God bless!

  3. Nancy, the topic of your post is evident in our world today. I appreciate this powerful quote: “We don’t value others by entertaining them. We value them by serving them and calling them to service.” Connection and service draw us closer to God and each other.

  4. Living for the Lord and the next world is our goal. This is why we write about Jesus, faith in Christ, and salvation. This is why we talk about these realities with our children, our friends, and our extended family. This is why we invest in reaching unreached people. This is why we journey to faraway places with the Gospel. Our love of Christ compels us to respond with compassion, to help where we are able, and to tell others about Jesus.

  5. I was having a conversation with my daughter this morning on exactly this! This broken world can be SO hard, but we need to remember we’re not living for this world but for the Lord. It puts so much into perspective.

  6. Someone once said the resources to meet every need in the church are found in the people of the church. If we’re sitting in a church it’s because God called us to that place to serve and give. Every Christian is gifted with spiritual gifts to serve other Christians.

  7. Such a needed message. I believe so many churches have lost their way as they worry more about in seats than hearts given to God. I am praying for all our churches. Thanks Nancy.

  8. Another powerful article, Nancy. I liked this thought: “Our invitation is for others to live beyond themselves. We take our eyes off the comforts of this world, look to eternity, and invite others to do the same.” Yes!

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