Monday, July 14, 2008

People....Trash or Treasure

Could it be that the way that we choose to treat the people around us reveals the truth about how we feel about them? Do we view each and every human being that God created in His image as a treasure or do we view some of them as trash?

I had noticed over the years that there was a distinct difference in the way that people who attended the church were treated.It was as though people were sorted into groups according to how much money they made, how they dressed and what they could achieve using their faith. There were the "elite", the "prominent and preferential", the "desirables", the "commoners" and the "undesirables". Each of these groups of people had their own characteristics and their own level of acceptance with the pastor, the pastor's family,some of the pastoral staff and, of course, other church members.

First and foremost.....the elite. These were the pastor and his family and the super spiritual prophets and teachers invited to minister at the church. The ones who were ushered out into the sanctuary from behind the stage along with their entourage after the service began and made their timely exit before the service officially ended. This way they could be ushered out of the building or to the set aside area of the building where they were to be served a meal so that they didn't have to come in contact with the common church people.

Next......the prominent and preferential. These were the big money people. Those who were all about making the pastor and his family feel petted, pampered and served. The ones who took them on trips and bought them things.

Then came.....the desirables. The upper middle class church members. They were nice dressers and regular givers. They lived in nice houses and drove nice cars. They were heavily involved in the serving ministry. They may have not been where they are now when they first came to the church, but they were moving up, the money was coming in, they were a success in progress... they had faith. They set forth the image that the pastor wanted his church to have

Now these first three groups of people had a pretty good life at the church. They were welcomed and accepted. If something good happened to them or they came into some good favor or a large sum of money they may have even gotten their name mentioned from the pulpit during a sermon or been asked to share about their good fortune with the congregation. During the services it was not at all uncommon for the pastor to have "a word from the Lord" for them or for members of their family. Many had regular seats that were reserved for them towards the front or on the front row. In times of crisis or trouble the majority of them could easily get an audience with the pastor to get help in their time of need. Some even had his cell number. The majority of these people were heavily involved in the servants ministry so the pastor, his family and his staff were very appreciative of them. They may have even taken the time to converse with them casually before of after the services. Some may have been invited to personal functions or out to lunch etc. Some may even been invited to eat with the special ministers, or invited to serve them food to them at their special dinners.

After that came.... the commoners. These people were just your average, run of the mill, everyday people. They ranged from those who came every time the doors were open to those who only came occasionally. Some served in the servants ministry and were regular givers and some did neither. Some may have been poor, in need, confused, abused, looking for direction, needing counsel, had questions about the Bible, needed fellowship, or needed someone to love them and show an interest in them. They may have felt lonely, sad, used, betrayed, disillusioned or abandoned.

Finally came..... the undesirables. The ones who were the down and out, nothing seemed to go right for them, no matter how they tried or believed or confessed, their situation didn't seem to improve. They may have had holes in their clothes, drove a rattle trap car, looked unkempt, dressed a little promiscuously, asked or said the same things repeatedly. Some were there every service and some may have only shown up once and never came back. Then there were all those in between.

These last two groups some were accepted and some were merely tolerated. Some more easily than others. Some were just endured until they finally left. Regardless of the situation, there was no way they could ever obtain an audience with the pastor. No matter how they may have longed for recognition and personal encouragement none ever came. Needless to say there was never a "word from the Lord" for them during a service. Yet it seems that in Jesus' ministry, He was here for these just as much as anyone else if not more so, the ones He spent time with, the least of these.

James 2:2-5 (NIV) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say," Here is a good seat for you,"but say to the poor men, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor (or back row), have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers:Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor.

I realize this is not exactly what I saw happening when a pastor favored the wealthy of his flock and basically ignored the poor, after all in this passage these appear to be first time visitors and the practices I am talking about were a constant ongoing thing. Yet it is obvious that something is horribly wrong with these practices. It is appalling.

I pray that these pastors will wake up and realize what ministry truly is and discontinue practicing what they have twisted it into. Too many people need to see Jesus and this does not resemble Him in any way.


Anonymous said...

You described what I have seen perfectly. I never want to favor anyone over another. If I have ever been guilty of this - God please forgive me. I want to love others with God's love no matter how they look, dress, talk, act, etc.- basically I want to be like Jesus. Thank you for being bold enough to tell the truth and point these things out so that we can know what things to watch for and not make these same mistakes. I am ready to see churches model themselves after God's love instead of making up all of their own rules just because it benefits their image.

Anonymous said...

We're waiting!

Barb said...

The "cringe factor" for me is heavy in reading this piece. You describe my family perfectly. You describe how we acted toward each group. Again today, I repent.
Thanks I'm linking your blog to mine - people need to read this.