Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Our entitled society

As we look at the various challenges that hinder a church from fulfilling its mission one is the entitlement mentality that so many people have. We see it on the news every night. After decades of government handouts and giving everyone who participates an award we have raised a generation of people who believe they are entitled to anything they want whether they have earned it or not.

Back in the mid-1990s I was still working in a factory. Our local school brought a class to tour the factory and learn about manufacturing. I was the only factory worker involved in meeting this group and leading the tour. Everyone else was in management or engineering. After the tour we gathered for a Q&A session. Most of the students were very pleasant, but there were two boys who thought life revolved around them. Each of the factory people gave a short presentation of what their jobs were and took questions. Most questions were very good except for the ones these two boys asked. When it was my turn I explained a little about what was required to work in a modern factory and then asked for questions.

One of the two boys immediately asked how much I made. Not wanting to answer since it was none of his business I responded that the union had recently negotiated a new contract with the company and new employees would start at about half what we were making. The boy went into a tantrum about how unfair that was. He felt he should be making what everyone else working there made. I was already fed up with his behavior so I fired back with about a dozen questions asking if he knew how to read a set of micrometers, how to set up a Cincinnati drilling machine, and several other questions requiring knowledge and skills we used every day in that plant. He kept admitting he didn't know how to do any of those things. I then looked at him and asked, "Then what makes you think you deserve to earn what those of us who do know how to do these things make?" A senior management person told me later how glad she was I was able to shut him up.

He had the same mentality that those have who are demanding starting wages be raised to $10.00 or $15.00 an hour. If people want to be paid more let them learn new skills that enables them to add value to their employer. Raising people's salaries beyond the value they add to the employer will do nothing but result in higher unemployment. More jobs will go overseas and more companies will invest more money in automation equipment to replace those employees and their inflated salaries.

However, this mentality also impacts the church. Too many church members look at their membership as a guarantee that their every need will be met. Their pastor exists to serve them. The church's finances are to be spent on making their lives more comfortable. They do not see that they have any responsibility to grow as Christians or to be involved in ministries that would serve others.

As a pastor for twenty years and a denominational leader for the past fourteen years I have found that the people who often create the most problems in a church are the same people who add very little value to the church. They have an entitlement mentality that refuses to do anything that will benefit the church while at the same time demanding that the church caters to their every whim.

If the church is to achieve its mission it must stop giving in to these people. Churches don't need people who are going to take up space and do nothing but complain and criticize. We need people who are committed to the mission and vision of the church, people who are willing to work to see that purpose fulfilled. The church needs people who do not see their church membership as another entitlement program but as a responsibility to take the Gospel message to a world that does not know Jesus Christ. Only then can the church begin to make a difference in our world.

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