I've been pondering the theme of gratuity based faith for some time. Having enjoyed my fair share of meals served in a restaurant, I've begun to draw comparisons from the service world to the church.
There are a segment of people that expect their experience of church or community to be steeped in gratuity. The cardinal rule for those in the service industry is to earn the faith of the customer; in doing so, you will be rewarded by their gratuity (a bigger tip). Waiters and waitresses have experimented with impressive feats such as memorizing orders, names and even making sure they are one step ahead of you when it comes to service...all to try and earn a handsome reward.
I sometimes wonder if the church has adopted this similar mentality. The pursuit of success has lead communities of faith to be more focused on meeting expectations rather than leading out of conviction or vision for ministry. When the questions leaders ask themselves are focused on developing loyalty and commitment out of their congregation rather than questions that are aimed at the spiritual transformation of people, I think we've missed the mark of what discipleship is.
Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." The sharpening experience occurs from a number of successive collisions...lives intersecting for the purpose of mutual growth and development. I've never experienced a collision that didn't cause me some sort of pain and/or residual damage (some of which was for the better). I think we need to anticipate that living in the world of gratuity based faith isn't reality. In reality there will be conflict and challenge; the question is how will we choose to benefit from these growth opportunities.
The next time you are in a restaurant and leaving a tip, think about how you can inspire those around you to pursue authentic faith through the experience of discipleship.