Five unsettling trends: People will act more selfishly

Oct. 13, 2022

By Rev. Rick King

New Series: Five unsettling trends in the culture and how the church can meet them
II. People will act more selfishly–so congregants will need to practice self-giving, but with healthy boundaries

Carey Nieuwhof points to “[P]eople breaking rules, hoarding pre- and post-pandemic…, jumping vaccine lines, bidding up house prices, booking vacations, boats, bikes, campsites, SUVs, or anything else they’ve fixed their hearts on to make sure they get what they want.”

In churches, all of us have secretly expected some sort of “return to normal,” but we’ve begun to suspect that’s NOT going to happen:

Attendance patterns are up and down, with little of the pre-pandemic consistency. This is largely due to the big pause during the worst of the pandemic, in which people had a chance to break both good and bad habit patterns and rethink their lives.

Being able to watch the livestream and not have to get out of the house and go to worship is tempting. And many churches have limited the digital aspect of ministry to just livestreaming the service each Sunday, and not tapping the virtual potential for gathering, learning, building and deepening relationships.

Church leaders are having trouble getting people to step up and serve, even in existing programs and ministries; people are reluctant to make long-term commitments, which was the case before COVID and is even more pronounced now.

To those 10 to 20 percent who have stayed most active in churches, this feels like disloyalty, and disappointment and anger can be the result. So it makes sense to focus and do good self-care so that resentment doesn’t creep in and sully even the best acts of outreach and service.

And yet, even before the pandemic, we didn’t have to look very hard to see resentment, anger and passive aggression embittering acts of kindness, charity, and service. That’s why our behavioral covenant includes a pledge to “speak the truth in love.”

One of the pitfalls religious people need to avoid is overcommitting—saying “yes” when we should say “no,” and the belief that people of faith should somehow have superhuman, endless stores of compassion, patience, and energy. Without healthy boundaries, burnout is right around the corner.

You and I cannot control others and their actions, but we can be in charge of our own hearts, energy, and limits.