If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
What’s in it for me? Although we may not own up to it…that’s a question that most of us frequently ask? In the business world “what’s in it for me” is called ROI, which means…Return On Investment. If we’re going to agree to something or invest in it then we want something in return. Whether it’s the investment of time, resources, or energy — we want to see value.
We go to church with the expectation we are going to get something of value. Unhappy church members are those who aren’t seeing the payoff for being there. Happy church members are getting sufficient return on their investment to keep them coming back for more.
And so it was in the early church. Tongues and mysteries were common to the pagan religions of the day. Consequently, many converts to Christianity were attracted to the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Others wanted to be able to have extraordinary faith “that can move mountains.” Some found value in sacrificial giving to the poor or even martyrdom.
“If I can just do this…or get this out of it, I’ll be happy.” For some people church ROI is just sitting in the pew and not being bothered. Some people require lots of attention and frequent visits by the ministerial staff. Yet others just want to be left alone. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”
In fact, many people have a laundry list of expectations like:
- the right style of music
- a preacher who shouts or doesn’t shout
- young preacher or old preacher
- big church or little church
- casual or formal
- quiet or loud
- feel-good messages or fire and brimstone
- upbeat or laid back
- open demonstration of supernatural gifts or none at all
- child care or kids-in-the-pew
- standing or sitting
- pews or theater seating
- traditional or contemporary
The point is that none of these marks of individual value are wrong in and of themselves. God has blessed us with a variety of approaches to worship that help us express ourselves through our varying personalities. Within the context of the church we can pursue multiple venues that provide us with our personal ROI.
Here’s the danger. In your quest, for getting whatever it is you think you need from church, don’t miss out on the most important thing — love.
If you find that just right church where you are seeing value for your investment, and you are serving, worshipping, and receiving to your satisfaction — if you have attained all those things — but have not love, you have gained nothing. You are, in the words of Paul, “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” In fact Paul puts it very bluntly when he says of unloving Christians that they are “nothing.”
There are many happy people in The First Church of Refrigeration. But they stay cold and isolated because they have what they want and have not gained that which they most need…which is “love.” They may even love each other…but they haven’t learned to love outsiders. They are one big happy family but unfortunately, theirs is a closed community. They are fully persuaded they are a loving church and cannot see why anyone could think otherwise.
In your Christian experience “love” should be your highest priority. As you use your talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts in and out of church, and in your ministry to others…do it all in love. Your love should not be for what you have acquired but for those who will benefit from it. Love people and God. Take love with you wherever you go.
This Sunday put a little something extra into the offering plate. Put in an extra measure of love. Give God a return on His investment in you. Give love.
For more on this topic, check out this article: God Even Rescues Us from Ourselves
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.