Summary: The body of Christ is not about what I want. it's about what Christ wants.
Series: I Am a Church Member
(based on and adapted from Thom Rainer’s book by the same name)
“I Will Not Let My Church Be About My Preferences and Desires”
We are in the third week of our book study together. We’ve been studying the material in Thom Rainer’s book I Am a Church Member. I pray that you’ve found this material helpful and have been able to participate in our adult Sunday school classes as they discuss the study questions at the end of each chapter. If for some reason you don’t have a book, we ordered more copies and they are on the small white table between the last pew on the north side and the sound booth.
Our chapter for today is “I Will Not Let My Church Be about My Preferences and Desires.” People who always want their way are selfish. There is hardly ever any consideration for the wants and needs of others.
The dictionary defines selfishness as being “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” Everything generally centers on a selfish person’s wishes and favorite things. People who generally want their way will go to great lengths to get it and they don’t care about how they treat others in the process.
They can act out in a variety of ways. They can stomp and yell. They can become sullen and withdrawn. They can boohoo like nobody’s business. And they can also resort to bullying other people to get what they want. Here is a classic example.
(Video: Opie and the Spoiled Kid in 5 Mins.)
It’s sad to say but Christians can sometimes act just like demanding children who want things their way. Temper tantrums in churches may not include church members lying on the floor kicking and screaming, but I’ve seen them come close.
We don’t live in Mayberry. Problems don’t usually resolve themselves. It takes a lot of love, work, and patience to resolve most of the problems within a church.
The strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join. Church membership is not all about you. It’s about serving Christ and serving others.
There may be some things about our church that you might really like. But you’re here to serve others. You’re here to give and not just receive.
How do we keep ourselves from being selfish? How do we follow the example of Jesus who prayed in the garden the night before he went to the cross: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39)
The answer is simple. Instead of seeking to serve myself, I should seek to serve others. Instead of trying to be first, I should strive to come last. My motivation should not be to get my preferences moved to the top of the list. Instead, I should seek to subordinate my wants to meet the needs of others. That’s easy to say but difficult to do.
The Servant Motif
Mark 9:33-35 – They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Selfishness and pride does not just affect a few. It is something that plagues all of us. Our sinful nature drives those desires. Even Jesus’ closest followers were susceptible to the pull of selfishness and pride. This was not just a onetime incident. There were several of them in the little over 3 years they walked with Jesus.
I can just see the band of 13 traveling by foot on the way to Capernaum. Jesus is in the lead and the others are quite a few steps behind. These foolish disciples had forgotten that Jesus is God in the flesh and that he knows everything. They think that by hanging back, they can debate the most important things on their minds. Which one of us is the best disciple? Who is the one closest to Jesus? When Jesus isn’t around, who is in charge? Which one of us is top dog?
When they arrived at Capernaum, Jesus confronts them over their behavior on the road. What could the disciples do? They knew they had no defense for their behavior. They thought Jesus couldn’t possibly know what they’d been doing.
Can you imagine how they felt when Jesus sat down and called them to gather around? Teachers in the 1st century sat while they taught. Jesus had taken the position of the teacher.