When I was in college, the soccer team had a number of road games each year to destinations that were “less than entertaining”. Some of the trips were close enough that we’d drive back after the game, but often we were left without much of anything to do but sit around some other school’s empty dorm rooms.
I remember on one of those trips, a bunch of us were sitting around playing cards, having fun – until someone got mad. An argument got going, and got a little heated – I think someone tried to cheat (which is funny/sad all by itself because I think we were playing for toothpicks or something like that). Finally, one guy stood up off the scrubby carpet we were sitting on and shouted something like “Fine! I’m taking my cards – I’m not playing anymore.” Just like the bratty kid on the sandlot that threatens to take his ball and go home.
Keep in mind, this is a bunch of Bible college kids sitting around killing time before the next day’s game. I can’t think of any of us who were sitting there playing who are not in ministry today. But something went ‘off’ and somebody got mad. I don’t remember exactly who said what as the intensity of the disagreement escalated, but I do remember being shocked at the end result – one guy (who is a great guy) taking his cards and ending the game in anger.
At least it ended it for him – the rest of us just hunted down a new deck of cards, divided up his ‘winnings’ (which was toothpicks or skittles or something) and kept playing. His cards weren’t the only cards to play with.
People in the church sometimes play this game. We can get bent out of shape about sermon topic choices, music selection/style/volume, class offerings, pie auctions, & fish fry’s (and SO many other stupid issues)… so we threaten to take our “ball” and go play somewhere else. And by “ball” we usually mean “tithe” – and by “tithe” we usually mean “whatever negligible amount I won’t miss too much”. The thing we need to realize is our ball is not the only one. The church belongs to Jesus and His mission is much too important for us to be jacking around with emotional head games, making threats to leave. He’s not going to put up with our tantrums. He’s going to cut us loose and continue pumping life into the branches that can bear the fruit He wants to produce.
It’s no wonder so many young people leave the church about as soon as they can: it’s not what they like and they’ve spent 16-20 years watching people leave when they don’t get what they like. We need to grow up – forget about ourselves and find out what Jesus wants for His church. Then remain in Him and let His life produce fruit in ours.
Check out what John had to say in Luke 3 to people who were feeling smugly self assured about having things their own way. Not only will Jesus be pruning branches, John warned of whole trees about to be cut down and burned up!