In May of 2000, our family moved from a military assignment in Canada to another assignment in Nebraska. In doing so, we looked at our options for housing and decided to purchase a house in Bellevue. The property was nicely sodded but it didn’t have any landscaping. So, we did some research and designed our landscaping and began to purchase the materials and plants we needed. The last step in the process was to purchase and install the river rock around the house. I measured and gave the local nursery the numbers and they delivered a large dump truck load of rock at the end of the driveway and into the cul-de-sac. When our two teenage sons, at that time, saw this large pile of rock, their mouths dropped and immediately asked how all that rock was going to get moved. I smiled and said, “the two of you.” Oh, how I wish I had a picture that captured the look on their faces.
That weekend, I gave my sons gloves, shovels and a wheelbarrow and told them to take turns as they loaded, carried and dumped rock around the house. After a few turns, they asked me, “Dad when are you going to take a turn?” I just kept raking the rocks into place and said, “you guys are young and strong and you can handle it.” After a couple of hours, they stripped off their shirts full of sweat. I imagine they were also dreaming of being on the golf course. Why did I imagine that? Not only because they love golf and sported a golfers tan but when we stopped for a water break, they had the nerve to ask me if I was just going to continue supervising or if I was going to help move the rock. Now, if I had planned to help move the rock that was off the table. And as a result, I was even more determined to teach them a lesson on hard work and show them they were “too soft.”
Our sons still tease me about my “supervisory” skills. They will never forget moving those rocks. That’s for sure. But, as I was thinking about this story and what I was trying to teach my sons through the experience of hard work, I saw this as a picture of the local church in America. After all, God wants us to be faithful, hardworking and committed to following Him regardless of how difficult it might be. However, I can only conclude, that by in large, we are “too soft” like teenage boys that spend most of their time on the golf course. Let’s be honest. Most of us are guilty of complaining about the work of the ministry and expecting someone else to do it. Even though God gives us talent, spiritual gifts and resources to do His work, we dream of something else.
My concern is also founded in the observance of behavior, including my behavior, over 40 years of church life. We often get mad, complain, gossip and give up when things don’t go our way. Our excuses for not doing what the Bible clearly directs us to do are often lined with blaming others. What does the Bible direct us to do? Things like “love God, love one another, love our enemies and make disciples to name a few.” Moreover, instead of having a focus on our God-given mission and calling, we are distracted by interpersonal conflict and a desire for popularity. If not popularity, then power. For that matter, instead of projecting the gospel, we are trapped behind our fake masks designed to project our desired image. Yes. We are “too soft” and routinely spoiled by our local churches who coddle us and enable us instead of equipping us and sending us because the church is afraid of losing us.
Lastly, I know we are largely “too soft” when I read, LK 9:23 And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Have we denied ourselves of anything? According to debt.com, “Total U.S. consumer debt is at $13.86 trillion. That includes mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and student loans.” Along with that, according to Barna Research, “5% of adults qualify as having tithed—giving 10% or more of their annual income to a church.” So, if most of us can’t get past denying ourselves, is it possible for us to “take up our cross daily?” In other words, are we willing to die in order to follow Jesus? Oh for heaven’s sake, in case you aren’t sure, according to satista.com, only “23% attend a corporate worship service every week.” And so, if we don’t even desire to worship Jesus why would we die for Jesus? It gets worse. How does the work of the church get done. According to several sources, 80% of the work of the ministry gets done by 20% of the people of any given church. Some claim, instead of 80/20 it is close to 90/10. Again I ask, if we aren’t willing to do the work of the ministry would we willingly die for Jesus?
The story of doing our own landscaping is still a fun story to tell. In fact, it mirrors the process we go through as Christians from being “too soft” to learning how to work hard and developing a good attitude about it. All in all, I’m thankful that my sons developed into strong, tough men. They still like to be on the golf course but they aren’t afraid of hard work, including the work of ministry. So, where are you in the process? Are you still “too soft” proven by a bad attitude and routine absence or are you ready to put on your gloves, pick a shovel and get to work for the Lord?
A Work in Progress,