Thursday, November 10, 2005


It seems to me that there are many Christian writers and leaders who use the words “community” and “relationships” interchangeably. I don’t think the meanings of the words are the same. The more I hear and read the word “relationship”, the more I am convinced it is a word that doesn’t have a meaning, or at least a clear meaning. I have a relationship with God, a relationship with my wife, and a relationship with the chair I am sitting on, but the three have very little in common and how I relate to each of the three is very different. If I had my way, the word “relationship” would be stricken from the Christian vocabulary along with the word “just”.

Communities are groups of individuals and organizations who voluntarily cooperate in a way that is mutually beneficial. When an individual chooses to purchase bread from a baker instead of baking his or her own bread, the baker and the buyer are both rewarded; the buyer saves time and usually money, and the baker earns additional income. The baker and the buyers form a community of dependence, where both are giving and both are getting. Healthy Churches are very similar. In a healthy Church community, there is a balance between giving and getting.

Unfortunately, many Churches struggle to achieve a balance between giving and getting. These Churches usually have a small percentage of givers trying to serve a larger percentage of getters. Eventually, some form of temporary balance is achieved, but the constant struggle to maintain the balance always remains. Churches with the highest percentage of independent individuals will have less trouble achieving the balance because of the lower percentage of needy individuals who are a burden to others. One of the goals of ministry should be to minister in a way that moves individuals from a position of dependence on others to a position of independence so they will no longer be a burden, but become a servant and a contributing member of a community.

Each of us have a different quotient for how much individuality we can sustain, just as we each have a different quotient for how much compromise and cooperation we can sustain. Within a healthy Church community there is room for those with high individuality quotient, a low individuality quotient, a high cooperation quotient, and a low cooperation quotient. Those with no individuality quotient or no cooperation quotient are the burdens to a healthy Church community. I know there are many today who look at Church and society and see too much individualism. I’m not one of them. I look at Church and society today and see way too much dependence on others in ways that are unnecessarily burdensome. In my view, this is an unhealthy trend.


Hammertime said...

Thanks for the clarification, David. I have difficulty, however, seeing who is "getting" and who is "giving". Well, perhaps I don't have difficulty seeing those states, but am not aware of the mass of churches who have many getters and few givers. My perspective has been that there are very few of both. Unless you count the blessing of being in a worship service as getting, the mass of churchgoers show up...and that is it.

Do you see things differently? You may need to use specific examples of giving and getting for me to grasp it.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Hammer,

The givers are the members who contribute financially, those who organize, those who maintain, and those who serve. The getters are those who participate in activities and those who sit in church. Some functions allow a person to both give and get at the same time, but giving is mostly a discipline that does not come with an immediate personal equivalent reward. The reward is the growth of the Church and the “well done good and faithful servant” at the end.

A Church could not survive long term without some sort of balance between giving and getting. However, short term, people get discouraged and burnt out from constantly giving without seeing results. It’s a little creepy to me how some people just continue to do what they have always done regardless of the results. I guess they are exhibiting a disciplined commitment, but it sure seems to me like there are a whole lot of dead Sunday Schools that have no real purpose other than to meet after the main service.

It’s very typical for a church to ask for help from volunteers in the bulletin or Sunday morning announcements. This is a sign that the leaders didn’t do a very good job of counting the cost before making plans and the church is short of givers.

Hammertime said...

OK. I understand and agree with your giver/getter stance.

Now the real question - how do we go about with the necessary reformation? Even churches with lots of volunteers still pull under 50%. I'd say it is really more like under 20% for churches that we would consider high in giving. The majority of all churches are more like under 10%.

What is required to change this?

David M. Smith said...

"What is required to change this?"

Hi Hammer,

I’ve spent about nine months writing about my observations and ideas for change. Obviously my views are in the minority, but I just don’t see very many positive trends in the Church universal at this time. I do trust that God has a plan and I hope I am part of his plan.