Sunday, August 10, 2008

Are you a giver or a taker?

I was talking with a good pastor friend of mine about his experience at breakthrough. At the end of their several weeks together, they had to go around the room and tell every person in their group, face-to-face, whether they believed that person to be a giver or a taker. We then talked about how to manage the givers and takers in our churches.

We all take at times. Every single one of us needs to receive from others. Erin and I have received from others while going through this and other difficult times. When a person is new to following Jesus, they NEED to take more than they give, if they're maturing, that ratio will continue to move toward giving more.

What can worry me as pastor, and require some people management, is that there seems to be a pattern of people who almost alway give and those who almost always take. My challenge as pastor is to keep the givers from burning themselves out, making sure they get breaks and are energized. If the ratio of givers to takers is way off balance, though, that can be difficult. There are some people who seem to ALWAYS be in the nursery, ALWAYS at set-up, ALWAYS giving regularly and to special offerings. These people get it Jesus' expectation that we serve and give, but they must be protected from burn-out. These are the same people who ALWAYS help out the family in need.

There also seems to be people who just don't seem to understand that someone plugged in the speakers at 8 AM so they could hear the guitars, someone staffed the nursery so they could drop off their kids, someone gave financially to pay the rent bill, so they could enjoy worship on Sunday morning and be a part of such a wonderful church. Things can get way off balance if takers always expect givers to bail them out whenver they're in a crisis. A church can't be healthy if takers are always feeding off givers. Nor can it be healthy if givers are never receiving.

On the same day I had that conversation with the pastor-friend, I started reading a great book entitled, Confessions of a Pastor by Craig Groeschel. (I LOVE this guys' blog!) In his chapter, "I can't stand a lot of Christians" (what a chapter, huh?), he wrote this.

"Something just happened that made me stop and think. I was sitting in my office, typing away, when Package Delivery Guy dropped off a package. (I know his name, but I'm guarding his anonymity.) I like this guy a lot. I see him often, and he's really cool, but he just said something that makes my skin crawl.
Package Delivery Guy told me, 'I finally found me a good church.' (This is after several years of church hoping and shopping.) 'All the other ones didn't meet my needs, but this one does.'
Why would I shudder at that statement? Think about it. I've heard it hundreds of times: I'm looking for a church that meets my needs.
Can you admit for a moment how incredibly unbiblical that statement is? When did we, as Christ followers, start to think that church exists for us? When did we forget that we are the church? And that we're here for the world?
Before I was a pastor, I used to think that church should serve me, until I let God change my attitude. I was a taker, not a giver. I wanted a church that would provide what I needed. I was the spiritual consumer - an observer, not a participant.
If that's you, let me encourage you to stop observing and get in the game. Reach out. Use your gifts. Give recklessly. Serve passionately. Make a difference. Love those whom others reject, even those who aren't like us - especially those who aren't like us. Love not only nonbelievers, but also 'second-class Christians.' Jesus did; so should we."

The challenge is to find balance. We all go through seasons where we need to receive more than we give. We also go through seasons where we give like crazy. If you're a giver, you must be practicing Sabbath and establishing healthy boundaries. If you're a taker, you must work to put yourself in a healthy position so you can give to others. If we're not balancing our giving and taking both our church as a whole and the individuals in our church will be living with an unhealthy balance.

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