Mob Mentality

Bible study tonight. Down in number a little bit, but we had a great time launching our new series on the life of David. The attendance at the two meetings is still majorly lopsided, and we’re trying to figure out what to do about that. Still, the second study seems to go better, as the smaller number somehow allows for more connections to be made. The whole atmosphere tonight though felt a little damp and dull. Don’t know if it’s the cold weather, or mid-terms or what. St. presented the Gospel both services and did a great job.

The two bringers I often mention, J. and R., are, I believe, a little frustrated with me. They invited me to their English corner, as they do every week, and I told them that I could only come for an hour. And that’s how long I stayed. And I think they weren’t very happy. R. didn’t come to the Bible study tonight, and J. brought a small fraction of the people that he normally brings.

This is part of a big problem that we have to fight from the very beginning of our ministry – this whole idea of relationship-based faithfulness. Everyone loves to go on about how here in China, everything revolves around your relationships. If you have good relationships, you will have success and exemption from many of life’s troubles. If you don’t have it, you’re out of luck. First of all, claiming this as a cultural distinction requires ignoring some surprising American statistics. Such as the high percentage of people who found their current employment through a personal connection.

But, cultural inaccuracies aside, this kind of thinking is particularly dangerous for the preaching of the Gospel. If we’re not very careful, we’ll fill a church building full of people who aren’t serving because of a real spiritual relationship, but because of an obligation to fulfill their end of a human relationship. Mutual back-scratching: I go to J. and R.’s English corner, so they come to my Bible study. Sounds nice at first, but how much of this can I possibly do? How big can a ministry possibly get if I have to run errands for every member all week? And if they’re not really interested, I don’t care to keep them around anyway (I try not to anyway).

The whole problem with this stuff is that it puts whatever they’ve got going on at the same level of importance as what we’ve got going on. I should go to their English corner because they came to my Bible study? Logic that only works if they’re of equal importance. And that’s ridiculous. Who does a Bible study profit anyway? What do I get out of it? It’s like saying, “Since I let you save my life, you owe me dinner.” At some point, we have to ask people to come to church because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s good for them, whether or not I did some kind of favor for them.

It’s not the mafia; it’s the church.

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