A Bad Appeal for a Good Cause

Churches sometimes succumb to the temptation to appeal to our less-worthy motives in order to get us to do what we ought. In our age of individualistic, therapeutic, consumeristic selfishness–not that every age isn’t selfish, but this is the kind of selfishness that afflicts us most–churches often present the various needs they have for volunteers in terms of “opportunities.”

So each Sunday morning we hear of “opportunities” in youth work, or the soup kitchen, or the Sunday School, or an Alpha program. And each Sunday morning we then ask ourselves, if only for a moment’s consideration, “Do I want to do that? Will this be good for me? Is it indeed a valuable opportunity? No? Then forget it.”

Yes, Christian service is always a valuable opportunity for me: to use my spiritual gifts, to develop a serving spirit, to enjoy the company of fellow Christians, and so on. But Christian service is supposed to be also about honouring God and loving my neighbour. It’s about an obligation to meet others’ needs, not just benefit myself with one happy opportunity after another.

And when my church calls, it calls me as a member of a living organism, as someone already part of a unit who is supposed to be called on when need arises and who is supposed to respond with alacrity.

Churches, and other Christian organizations, therefore must not back away from declaring needs and calling constituents to meet those needs. That’s the respect adults pay each other. “This may not appeal much to you, but too bad: It’s a genuine, important need, and somebody has to step up. You’re a conscientious member of this church, a church that follows a Master who washed his disciples’ feet, so we’re asking: Will you?”

The Christian life is about responsibility to others, not just opportunity for myself. It is not, despite my individualistic, therapeutic, and consumerist inclinations, all about me.

It’s about us.