How the Entitlement Mentality Crept into Our Churches

In 1974 Burger King made a bold move to take market share from McDonald’s. At the time, McDonald’s made burgers en masse. If you wanted a special order, you had to wait interminably while it was cooked separately.

I remember. I’m a ketchup-only kind of guy.

So Burger King announced that each order would be cooked at the time of the order the way the customer wanted. Their new slogan was “Have It Your Way.” Burger King, at least at the time, understood the consumer entitlement mentality.

So what does this story have to do with our churches?

It provides a brief historical backdrop of the mentality that has crept into our churches, where many of our members think church is a place where I can always “have it my way.” For now, let me share some key reasons many of our congregations have become more like country clubs than churches, a place where some members demand their way instead of serving and self-sacrificing.

  1. Failure to state clearly the expectations of church membership on the front end. A membership class, or some similar entry point into churches, should not only give information about the church, it should provide expectations about membership. Membership without expectations becomes membership with entitlements.
  2. Failure to make certain as possible that members are Christians. Sadly, we church leaders often neglect to discuss the spiritual conditions of prospective members. Are they truly followers of Christ? As a result, many of our churches have unregenerate members.
  3. Seeking numerical growth at all costs. We certainly should be Great Commission churches. We certainly should be inviting people and sharing the gospel. But if our end goal is numbers, we will make compromising statements to bring people into our churches. We should seek to grow our churches out of obedience to God, not to create our own kingdoms.
  4. Failure to remind the congregation regularly what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. All of us church members have the potential to lapse into self-serving, entitlement members. We all need to be reminded that church membership is not about perks and privileges, but serving and sacrifice. I have been encouraged to see many churches have annual renewal and commitment services.
  5. Allowing the most entitled members into positions of key leadership in the church. One of the more common manifestations of an entitled church member is a person who seeks to gain power and leadership positions in a church so he or she can control and get his or her own way. We yield to them too often because they might be big givers or because we don’t have the fortitude to resist their bullying behavior.
  6. Failure to deal with difficult issues. Church leaders too often are conflict avoiders. And while we shouldn’t pick a fight over every issue of minutia, neither should we allow a pervasive culture of entitlement, bullying, and manipulation to grow unabated. A problem not handled now is a larger problem later.

The biblical mandate for local congregations is counter-cultural. In many passages of the New Testament, such as 1 Corinthians 12, we are clearly taught that members are to be sacrificial, giving, and serving.

Such a mentality goes counter to the culture in which the church ministers.

Church is not about having it our way.

It’s about bringing glory to God by having it His way.

Posted on February 27, 2017

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I think it’s interesting that pastors assume people aren’t serving just because they don’t see it. How do you know what people are doing “on the side”? They not only are working 50 hours or more a week, but then taking care of elderly parents, trying to be do everything in their family due to an uninvolved father, helping their neighbors, etc. Also, they give money to those they see in need and disciple without the “oversight” of the pastor. They work hard without getting paid (like the pastor). I didn’t know we had to turn in our spiritual time cards to the church.

  • As far as entitlement goes in my opinion it’s because the American dream influences the church in America more than the Bible does the fact that were born in America we think we’re entitled to houses the finest education multiple cars clothes jewelry all the things that much of the rest of the world will never have we believe we’re entitled to it I think with sadly mistaken

  • RE: Ren’ee says: I have heard and also read recently a response on your statement of characterization of “all kinds of weird people.” “what are you going to do when the weirdoos and freaks show up.” Tell me, what is the difference between your sin and their sin?

  • Joe De Leon says on

    Hi Tom,
    I have been reading your blogs and am impressed with the content. I was wondering if you have these translated into Spanish?
    If not would you give me permission to translate some and post in spanish?

    Thank you

  • …church is a place….

    where we all need to encourage one another and build up one another day after day, and all the more as the day approaches, particularly according to the Lord, so that none of us are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin

  • Courageous clergy leadership is critical to draw us back to what it actually means to follow Christ. Navigating this kind of change, shifting from entitlement to authentic discipleship, always takes a toll on the pastor leading the charge. This does not mean that it is not worth it; rather, it means making calculated choices with impeccable, God-centered timing, to make changes that are healthy for the Body of Christ. Each pastor needs a prayer partner and intentional leadership training on how to effectively lead change for this to happen. Partnering with key laity, who do step forward with their investments of money and time in God’s kingdom, is a key piece. May God give us all courage to lead with excellence!

  • Great read! Goes along nicely with “I am a church member”. I had my entire church (youth and up) go thru this book. We are finishing it up this week. It is turning lights on for some people. Thanks for your insight brother!

  • Thanks for sharing this list of reasons for a consumer mentality. I’m thinking that #2, 4, and 6 are effectively problems in this place. At a recent church meeting where the congregation was discussing a church name change to “community”, the leadership was accused of making the church a place for “all kinds of weird people”. Heaven help us if “those” sinners enter our door. The “church is for Christians”. Seems to me that many in this place want to continue as the holy huddle, separate, untouched and uninterested in the community around us.

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