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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The "NIKE: Just Do It" Faith Mentality

Many years ago I sat in a church service in which the "minister" actually used the analogy of Nike's slogan "Just Do It" to refer to how to live out the christian faith. Just balls-to-the-walls, get up early, make yourself read your Bible, pray to God, volunteer at church, Be A Christian. I found it very offensive then, as I do now.

If faith is real, then it is spiritual, and originates waaaaay outside of what I will myself to do out of my human strength. My faith teaches that strength is born of weakness. That my "righteousness is as filthy rags". (read: self-righteousness). Naturally, when one loves Jesus, his radical love for dirty and diseased down and outers, his disdain for the religious leaders with all their correct answers and snobbery, and his upside-down example of loving through serving others; it does infinitely affect the way a person chooses to live their life. But the moment that this becomes requirement, and law, and some "proof" of your "commitment", something has gone horribly wrong in the presentation of Jesus and his message. Guilting people into volunteering in the church building because its all about Jesus is just limiting him in a ridiculous way. Do you read about Jesus spending exhorbitant amounts of energy raising funds for buildings and recruiting volunteers for programs? Or was it more about Love in Action? Did he not create everybody with entirely unique giftings and abilities, some of which function in the church building, and some of which the "ministerial" may never know that its people are involved in? What makes it "count"?

Not everybody ought to volunteer in kids church. There are some pretty crappy teachers who are trying to win jewels in their mythical heavenly crown by spending Sunday after dry Sunday cranking out legalisms to children in the rear rooms of our sanctuaries. I would prefer the people who are authentically drawn to that position than people who are guilted into spending their Sundays with our kids when they are actually worn out, dried out, and not getting any fruitier by legalistically doing their duty by the church.

I would prefer the illusion that people are "wasting space" in the church building by not volunteering if their commitment to volunteer has not been a God-driven incentive in the first place. Haven't we all met the self-righteous burn-out victems who raise their hand for every oppurtunity in the church, only to learn to whine about the people who don't do enough? Maybe we should just think "people"; not "programs". Maybe we should take the chance that there are zero programs. Just messy, tired people who slump into the chairs, get watered by the liberating words of God, then come to the place of giving to others through authentic revival. I think only God can revive. Guilt never worked in the olden days and its not likely to start being a great tool today.

My hairdresser years ago gave me one of the most liberating messages I have ever heard. She was talking about living out her love for God every day that she lived and breathed. She told me about *gasp* stepping away from a whole bunch of to-do lists at the church she attended. She told me how her minister probably didn't even know what she was doing in her off time, and that likely to the blind eye, she would have appeared to be a bench warmer.

And I say SO WHAT?!

Are we man pleasers, or God pleasers? Who is it that I want to be a servant to?
Suzanne's message set me free.
It began to turn the tide of what it meant for me to live for Christ.

Dear God-
Set us free from the prisons of religion.
You promised us freedom, and in freedom we live.

And give us grace to forgive.

And I will still not Just Do It.


Anonymous said...

You are able to write what is in my you...L-lew

tanya said...

I think that you are right about it being wrong to guilt people into doing things that they are not called to do, but at the risk of being boo-ed out of here, I disagree with you about the "just do it" faith. God's grace is ALL that's needed for salvation, and all the "good works" in the world won't change whether you are saved or not. However, when you are talking about any relationship, you need to realize that to make a relationship work, there has to be effort on the part of everyone involved. Just like my relationship with my husband suffers if I don't put in any effort to spend time with him, so does my relationship with God. When my Bible gets left on the shelf, and my prayers get rushed through or forgotten, I distance myself from God. Should God be the one to take responsibility for my faltering faith? Micah 6:8 says to "walk humbly with your God", not sit back and let God carry you. I may not always feel like walking especially when my legs are tired from a busy week, but it's a matter of putting forth the effort, even if I need God's strength to do it. When I graduated from university and had to join the shift-working world which included weekends I had to give up teaching Sunday school which had been my joy to do for years. I've come to realize that my relationship with God was never as strong as when my need to prepare lessons for the upcoming Sunday would not only cause me to delve deeper into the scriptures, but to also meditate on those scriptures throughout the week while I figured out object lessons and games that demonstrated God's lesson in those verses. Although I know I was called to be a Sunday School teacher, I doubt I would have seeked out the opportunity, but was happy to say yes when the superintendent approached me as a pimply-faced teen. Some people (like myself) need encouragement to "just do it".

Judy said...

Oh, Joyce.

I love you.

Do I tell you that often enough?

Could you please move to Michigan?

joyce said...

if you need encouragement to just do it, that is still miles and miles and mega miles away from being guilted into anything. That could be called conviction, and not replying to conviction could be called laziness. Still. Nobody has a loving relationship when they spend time with their spouse or their God out of obligation. Love begets love. Love is the motivation. Relationships are relational, and not obligatory.

Karla said...

And that, my dear Joyce, is one reason why I can't go to traditional church right now (and maybe for a long long time). Expectations on me that didn't fit, and the pressure to constantly "get with the program" or the latest band-wagon or annointing that had just come into town. In the seeking of simplicity, I had to go to the extreme to remove myself from church to find God again. I'm still finding Him - and it's a lot easier without all the striving to do and be.

it's a gong show... said...

i love this post joyce. i want to comment more but i need to think about what you've said. i shall be back :)

tanya said...

It's true Joyce, it's definitely a sad when a church is filled with people doing "God's work" without love. One of my favorite verses (or half of a verse anyways) is the second half of Galatians 5:6 "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (the first half talks about circumcision which seems to have been a big church divider back in the day, but these days could probably talk about anything that we squabble about). And for the record, I currently am one of those bench warmers in my church, (other than making play-doh for the sunday school classes), so I certainly an not judging people on the basis of what they do or don't do, but I do have a pet peeve about those who do nothing and then complain about nothing getting done.

joyce said...

awwww, Tanya- does this mean we don't get to have our first fight?
When we are taught to listen to God, love God, and respond to God, then in my humble opinion, anything that NEEDS to happen in the context of church is going to happen. I say that from the priveleged position of not being on church staff, or trying to run a program that requires X number of volunteers. I sometimes wonder what would happen if we only taught response to God. Would the "programs" disappear and our acts of love simply move to the greater community in the context of lifestyle and livng from the heart? Or do we feel like that is too big of a risk to take?
Sometimes some people in the church can become so insular that all they see is that group of people. I don't believe that is "the church". The church is the world wide mass of people who honour Jesus and seek relationship with him.

I certainly don't propose to have answers or solutions. But I do prefer to be taught to live in authenticity and then see what flows from that. Instead of being pressured as a round piece into a square hole and then get told how God is sure to bless me now. I'd rather take my chances with God, without some other human legislating the exact way of finding grace with God.

bria erskine said...

Joyce, again you have put to words what my heart has been feeling. I was just out with a friend last night talking about these very things!

Karla, I am right there with you! It's interesting what happens when you step out and seek God in the wild instead of in the box that so many people need to put Him makes some people so uncomfortable. We can worship God in a church, we can preach about God in a church, but we cannot confine God to 'church'.

Crystal said...

I will also stick my neck out there and agree with Tanya. I do my share of volunteering because there are alot of times where if I don't just do it, it won't happen and it's the kids that suffer for it. Regardless of where I'm volunteering, I tend to see the same people doing these jobs. There is something wrong with that. And as Tanya said, it has also been my experience that the biggest whiners and complainers are the ones who sit on their duff and do nothing.

I wouldn't want to live in a community where people didn't do things for the greater community good. There's lots of times I don't "feel" like doing something, but I do it anyway because I know it's the right thing to do.

I'm not saying you should do something you hate or aren't good at, but everyone can do something.

Jenn said...

I read this post yesterday, and since then I have been thinking of something "smart" to say. However, nothing profound came to mind...

I "just do it" because if I waited to feel led, or waited for the spirit to "move" me, I would be waiting a long time. I find "just doing it" even when you don't want to is often when you feel that is just what you suppose to be doing.

Thanks for making me think Joyce.

joyce said...

, "I tend to see the same people doing these jobs. There is something wrong with that. And as Tanya said, it has also been my experience that the biggest whiners and complainers are the ones who sit on their duff and do nothing."

A couple of questions: What is the effective way then to "change" or motivate the whiners and complaimers. And whose "job" is it?

Are the people who do all the jobs better than the ones who slump in the pew? Do we want a depressed, exhausted, disillusioned person "doing the stuff"?

Whiners and complainers exist in every beurocracy. if they ought to be helping, I still don't think that guilt and condemnation is a wise and effective tool.

There is also a huge difference between "doing" a volunteer job because you truly desire to see it done. That is not usually a guilt motivation. Its often how we parent-- don't want to get up at night, but want my child to feel secure and fed. Don't want to read Calliou fifty times but want to teach my child that he/she is worth my time. But how would it feel if our spouse came to us and said "you're just taking up space. If you love our child, read three books every day".

Its a no-brainer that putting other people's needs at top priority is fundamental to faith in God. My point is largely about misplaced motivation. I still see way too much "I should" and "oooh, I shouldn't". I don't see that as being the reflection of a renewal of the mind.

I don't actually think that you and I are disagreeing. I think the main point is getting confused. Firstly- you cannot love God via guilt. God came to set us free from shame and guilt. Second. People love to parallel service with faith. While both go hand in hand, how much you do is a poor measuring stick, although much more convenient. Doing things because we want to see them done (the dishes have to be washed after potluck dinners) is part of living with a conscience. But again- What makes more sense? Making people feel inadequate and counting how many times they do and don't do the dishes? Just makes us feel self-righteous in an icky way.

I was once told (whilst teetering at/over the brink of anxiety) that "if everyone had my attitude, how would ANYTHING IN CHURCH EVER GET DONE"!!

I'm still upset about that. Talk about "ministry oppurtunity". She could have given me some comfort. Some grace. Instead I received condemnation and guilt.

I'll never promote it.

tanya said...

I think the big problem here is that we as a church are all still humans, and prone to human emotion, laziness and complaining. In a community of believers there should be no need for guilt and other tactics to get people involved, because theoretically everyone should be listening to God for guidance and filling the need He wants us to using the talents that he gave us. Unfortunately this theory doesn't take into account the fact that we are human and not always on the same page as God. I do agree that if they are having to resort to pressuring people into a running program it should be scrapped rather than having a bunch of miserable people running a program without love.

Becky said...

I don't see how it would work to not have anyone running the programs just because they didn't feel like it...our church would be really chaotic, and I dare say that there wouldn't be much teaching happening because nobody would be able to hear anything! I can't say I particularily love running the nursery, but that doesn't mean that I can just step down and assume that someone else will really feel like they would just love to step in and do it. Each time I try to come up with excuses about why I really should step down and "give someone else the chance to do it", I feel like God is telling me that it's my attitude and heart that needs to change: not my volunteering. If I know it needs to be done, than I need to ask for Grace and Joy to do it. My husband does sound at church, which is usually a pretty thankless job as most people only turn around to see who's doing sound when there's high-pitched feedback. But, if nobody does it, it really limits our worship because we wouldn't be able to hear the music! I see what you're saying about not guilting people into volunteering, but I also know what it feels like to be turned down over and over again trying to find people to help out.

Roo said...

so much in this post. so hard to put it all into words. but all to say, i so hear your heart in this post.

esp. in your comments you said this, When we are taught to listen to God, love God, and respond to God, then in my humble opinion, anything that NEEDS to happen in the context of church is going to happen.

i was once a part of a gathering of believers where the pastor often was heard saying that he would never ask anyone to fill any needs that their church was requiring.

granted, this was a small church and also granted this was obviously the way God had led this pastor to walk (in that i am not saying that ALL churches, gatherings etc are called in the same way) i thought it was crazy.

how will anything get done? the garbages emptied? the floors swept etc etc.... surely this is just encouraging laziness. how can people know the need unless someone lets us know?

and yet, as i watched (critiquely) everything was always taken care of. and i observed a body of believers that lived a closer picture of community and love then i had ever seen before in my life.

it was so incredible to watch God speak to people when they say needs arise around them. my own hubby had some of the best times of his life (this was before we were married) as he felt stirred to fill the need of "lead vacumer". :)

it was revolutionary to me. xo

it's so good to be able to talk about this stuff. we need to talk about it. because as painful as it is that's how relationship and true community is formed.

i want that. A lot.

joyce said...


Crystal said...

I don't disagree with regards to the whole guilt thing. All I'm saying is that people need to listen to the little voice inside. I truly find it hard to believe that every single person out there who has never given their time has never once in their lifetime had a moment where they thought "I should help with that" or "I can do that". We've all thought it. It's not guilt, it's a decision each individual makes personally.

As for motivating those complainers & whiners, that's not my job or anyone elses. Those people need to look inside themselves and decide if they're givers or takers. It is a decision you make. All I'm asking is that they stop criticizing the people who are actually doing what they refuse or unable to do themselves. And from personal experience, I've said on several occasions to several people that they are welcome to do it if they can do a better job. I've NEVER had any takers. That's the truth. It's just like politics, if you don't care enough to vote, then don't complain about the way this country is run.

I don't believe in guilting people. I realize that people have many things going on in their lives that they can't possibly commit to another thing. But sometimes all it takes is saying "sure I'll make a few phone calls for you" when you really want to say no, sort of along the lines of what Becky was saying. And I'm not talking specifically about the church, I'm speaking of community as a whole.

I still believe that everyone can do something. Big or little, it doesn't matter. It's the heart that matters.

Anonymous said...

it is fascinating/ironic how this discussion has become about doing vs not doing. I don't believe that's what the post was about.

Karla said...

Can I weigh in again? I agree with anonymous... I'm somewhat frustrated with the conversation. To be honest, it tires me out just reading about all the things that need doing in church... programs programs and jobs that are done to keep the "machine" running smoothly. And as the machine motors along, people are dying in the pews and desperate for something so different but everyone around the dying are too tired out from the machine to notice or help.

Sherwood said...



Now stop blogging...

and Go BE it ;-)

Brian the Mennonite said...

Yeah Karla...or whining too much about the whiners.
A frustration with the church is that the congregation is so busy supporting the ministry that they fail to realize that the ministry is right in front of them.
The ministry is NOT the programs,'s the PEOPLE.
I have the same frustration with the local thrift stores that are so busy raising money for god's work in Africa that they fail to see the need for grace in their own communities. "You shouldn't come here and expect low prices, because we're trying to raise as much money for missions as we can."
Hello...there's often a mission right in front of your face.

I'm weary of the church.

Ed Tetrault said...

I would strongly encourage you all to get the tape.

Karla said...

I try to keep it as simple as I can... the creed of Jesus...
"Love God , love others". That's the only expectation He has for any of us. Might I suggest that God doesn't give a rip if we work in the nursery or do the dishes after potluck. And neither do I. And it feels so good.

Sherwood said...

Sorry, signing "Ed Tetrault" was a bad joke. Was just trying to help with the church tape sales so they can pay their soundman.


Anonymous said...

WOW..............lots of opinions/thoughts on the subject. I see validity in everything said here.
For what it's worth, I think it would be a good idea to listen to the message that prompted this post. (You can hear it online) I don't think it was meant to be a guilt driven message - not that I didn't feel a little guilty myself about some things that were said.
The message was preached in love to brothers and sisters in the Lord. I think it was necessary.
Gotta run, but would like to come back again to finish my thoughts.

missm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.