Reopening Christianity Question 2: Pastor, Are You Creating Consumers or Contributors?

Today’s Blog is part 3 of a 6-part Blog Series called “Reopening Christianity: 5 Questions Every Pastor Must Answer.”  This series is intended to challenge pastors by asking five challenging questions that will help spur their churches to become greater collective expressions of Jesus Christ.  Miss prior blogs or want to read the next ones in this series?  Go to this link here.  Questions 1-5 go live January 11-15, 2021.

Question 2: Pastor, Are you Creating Contributors or Consumers?

In the typical church about 80% of the work gets done by about 20% of the people.  In addition, about 80% of the giving comes from about 20% of the top givers.

Crazily, I have come to find out that this 80/20 thing is actually a thing.  There is something apparently known as the 80/20 rule, or the law of the vital few, and it’s called the Pareto Principle. [i]  Amazingly, it shows up in a lot of places to be quite accurate.

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who noted the 80/20 connection in his home country.  He noticed about 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  This same phenomenon, he found out, is true in much of the world.  But not just with land.  In 1992, the UN Development Program Report found that the richest 20% in the world own 82.7% of the world’s income.

In the US, the top 20% pay 80%+ of the federal income taxes.

In computer science, Microsoft noted that by fixing the top 20% of the most-reported bugs, 80% of the related errors and crashes in a given system would be eliminated.  80% of a certain piece of software can be written in 20% of the total time.

In occupational health and safety, 20% of the hazards cause 80% of the injuries.  Even with viruses, something we all became too familiar with in 2020, 20% of infected individuals are responsible for 80% of transmissions.

As we look to reopen Christianity, it is important to realize that every one of us plays a part.  We cannot settle for 20%, or even 80% of our people involved in our church, but have to challenge all of the people God entrusts to us to contribute.  Why?

Because collectively, we cannot be the greatest expression of Jesus without being the fullest expression of who Jesus calls us to be. 

We become the fullest expression of Jesus when every person does their part.

The apostle Paul expresses the picture of the church and each person doing their part in Ephesians 4:15-16:

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

It is through the church that every Christian can truly contribute to a mission that’s larger than themselves.

If our goal in life is to glorify Jesus and represent Him to the best of our ability in this world, and we accomplish this through the church, then this fact is true: if only 20% of people are doing the work, then we are simply being 20% of the church that we could be Our church hasn’t become the full expression of Jesus that it could be until all Christians are using their gifts, talents, and resources for the unity and mission of the church.

Are you including and inviting each and every person in your church to use their God-given gifts for the sake of God’s church?

Sadly, in many of our church chairs or pews, live a lot of unfulfilled, purposeless people. In the last question, we mentioned that 70% of the people in our country do not enjoy their work or career.  They aren’t experiencing fulfillment.  Another often quoted statistic says that 98% of people die with unfulfilled dreams, and that the biggest regret that people have is not something they’ve done but something they’ve failed to do.[ii]  Purposeless and unfulfilling lives was the old normal, even for a country that is supposedly filled with a majority of Christians.

In John 4, there’s a little-known section of verses in a very well-known story that are key for us to look at.

Jesus and His disciples had been traveling all day, and they stop at a well just outside of a city. His disciples go into the city to look for food while Jesus stays sitting at the well. As Jesus is sitting there, a Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well. (Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along. Samaritans were Jewish people who married foreigners. Because of this, Jews called them half-breeds.) Jesus has a conversation with this woman, and He ends up leading her to faith in Him as the Messiah. Jesus ends His conversation with her right as the disciples return. She runs into the city to spread the word, and here’s the conversation that takes place.

 John 4:31-34

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

The disciples are confused.  It’s a Sunday. Did Jesus get Chick-fil-A on a Sunday?  How did He do that?!  What?!

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”.

Jesus is saying, “When others are consuming and thinking, ‘Fill me, fill me, fill me,’ what nourishes Me is when I pour into the lives of others.”  Jesus was declaring that He was there to do the work that God sent Him to do.  The disciples were more worried about consuming, but Jesus was more worried about contributing. Jesus felt more revitalized, more rejuvenated, more filled when He was serving others and leading them to faith in Him.

When we talk about people serving at church, we need to remind the people that God brings to our churches that they ultimately will not find fulfillment through only consuming.

Don’t hear me wrong.  It’s extremely important that we point people to every day consumption of God’s Word and daily spiritual keystone habits.  Speaking of which, here’s a great 40-day challenge to help people instill the five keystone habits of Jesus.  But ultimately, what brings great fulfillment is when we contribute to a greater cause.

So here’s the truth:

While the church needs each and every person to help it become the fullest, greatest expression of Jesus, each and every person in this world needs the church because it provides them with the opportunity to serve others and experience fulfillment.

In the midst of this pandemic, the big question that has arisen is what to make of the online church movement and how to participate (or not) in it.  My answer to this is that the Internet isn’t slowing down, and so our response online should definitely, collectively, be more and not less.

But no matter if people are worshipping in person, online, or both, through all of our preaching, small groups, etc. it’s imperative that we not only give people opportunity to consume God’s Word but very practical ways for them to take next steps and contribute.

We cannot just cater to consumers.  We must equip our people to be contributors.  The greatest growth in my faith has not been when I’ve learned something, but rather, when I’ve put what I’ve learned about God to practice.  Making space for the Holy Spirit to do His great work through us isn’t possible when we don’t get to work.

It’s one thing to preach an effective message that gets people to nod their heads in agreement.  It’s another thing to have them not only agree, but to commit to taking a practical next step in their faith.  To lead the church of the future into reopening Christianity, let us focus much energy on clear, practical next steps that moves each person to their next step of faith.

So pastor, are you creating consumers or contributors?

Question 3 goes live tomorrow, January 13th, 2021.

Two ways our team can help:

My life goal is to challenge people to become greater followers of Jesus.  Remember, Jesus said that His followers are hearers and doers of the Word.  The greatest followers of Jesus are those that both hear and do His Word.  Our 40-day challenges (Red Letter Challenge and Being Challenge) have proven results to mobilize your whole church to be hearers and doers of God’s Word.  If you’ve never experienced one of these 40-day challenges for yourself, and would like to, email us here.

While these blogs are written specifically for pastors and church leaders, we have an eBook Reopening Christianity and small group resources available for individuals at your church right here.  Many small groups and churches have found this to be a powerful small group or church-wide study.  To inquire about using this as a sermon series and for bulk rates on the ebook, email us at hello@redletterchallenge.com.

[i] Wikipedia. “Pareto Principle.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle.  Web. 6 November 2020.

[ii] Gantz, Lior. “Why 98% of People Die Without Fulfilling Their Dreams.” https://www.wealthresearchgroup.com/why-98-of-people-die-without-fulfilling-their-dreams/. 17 July 2016. Web. 6 November 2020.

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