The countdown is on to the launch day of People Are The Mission, coming Tuesday, March 6. Each Monday until the release date I’m sharing brief excerpts from the book. I’d love to hear your feedback!
Excerpt from chapter five, When the Older Brother Rears His Head
Luke 15 is a familiar story that Jesus tells about a wandering son, a redemptive father, and a judgmental brother. But the gospel of Luke isn’t the only place you’ll find that senior sibling. Our churches are filled with them. Older brothers tend to feel comfortable in the church. They are those who feel more sorrow than joy when a sinner repents and returns. They believe that they’ve had to earn what they’ve received from God, and they resent when others—less deserving—try to share in those blessings and benefits. They believe that their mandates are greater than the mission. They pay lip service to God’s mercy, which extends just far enough to reach them, but it certainly won’t go any farther. There is grace, of course, because no one is perfect. But grace for prodigals? It’s unjust, unfair. What did those people ever do to deserve that kind of mercy?
The spirit of the older brother will kill any spirit of hospitality you want to cultivate in your church faster than you can imagine. It’s a spirit that circles the wagons, protects the status quo, and guards the inside at the expense of the outside. Its presence is a dangerous cancer that will eat away any grace you try to extend to those who don’t know Jesus.
You find the older brother in the nursery worker who refuses to cuddle a baby because “her clothing smells like disgusting cigarette smoke. Those parents should know better.”
You see the older brother in the deacon who is all handshakes and smiles with the pastor prior to the service, but in private conversations afterward he threatens, “If you want to keep your job, you’ll dial back those evangelistic sermons. We don’t want to get too fanatical.”
You see the older brother in the lady who confronts the youth pastor about the neighborhood kid who shows up to a midweek Bible study wearing a Budweiser T-shirt. “He has no business coming in dressed like that. He needs to find more respectable clothes or leave.”
You see the older brother when the volume of the worship music is a hotter topic than the outreach to the community. You see him when committees leverage nonsensical rules just to keep their power in check. You see him when people withhold their giving until leadership gives in to their demands. You see him when people say, “We’ve never done it that way before”; “What does this mean for me?”; “Show me where it says that in the bylaws”; and “You’re sitting in my pew.”
The older brother is there in your congregation. Maybe a few faces popped into your mind as you read those previous illustrations. The sad truth is that our churches are rife with older brothers and our pews are full of them.
The spirit of the older brother fills your congregation. And it fills you. And me. So before we point our fingers at others, we need to take a look inside our own hearts.
Taken from People Are the Mission by Danny Franks. Copyright © 2018 by Danny Franks. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.