The early church believed that within each church body, they had the necessary elements to respond to a world full of need in the name of Jesus Christ. Today, however, in the age of specialization and specialists, many of us sit on the sidelines. We watch others fulfill our ministry for us. This “spectator mentality” has two primary, and unfortunate, outcomes.
The first is that for the handful of folks actually involved in the hands-on ministry of the church, there develops an undermining sense that, when verbalized and blurted out, says, “I have to do everything around here.” Certainly, no one intends to develop an attitude of resentment toward others. Yet the sin of resentment creeps up on us even when we try to respond to God’s love through the ministries of Christ’s church.
There is a theory called the “Pareto Principle” that states that 20% of the people in any organization do 80% of the work. In the realm of church stewardship, it is uncanny that on a consistent basis, in the giving patterns in all sorts of churches, 20% of church members give 80% of the money used for missions, operation, outreach, and in-reach.
A second unfortunate outcome of having a mere handful of people participating in the life of the church and its ministries in this “spectator mentality” is that spectators may feel a momentary thrill of watching someone else’s victories, but this participation is shallow and fleeting. As fulfilling as it is watching someone else succeed, success doubles in enjoyment when we have a hand in it. The idea of participation was one of the early church’s most brilliant strategies. No one watched while others lived out their faith. Rather each participated in the faith and its outreach.
During the Middle Ages, when Popes, priests, or other minor clergy assumed the tasks of faithfulness for the laity, the overall strength of the church of Jesus Christ waned. It was only during the Reformation, when Protestants took up the scriptures, read them for themselves in their native tongues, and felt called to pray for one another and for themselves without a priestly intercessor that the church began to refresh its spiritual strength and vitality.
We are stewards of God’s gifts because we want to walk the gratitude path!