When an employee hears that his company is downsizing then the principle and practice of LIFO is either a source of panic or a glimmer of hope. The idea of “Last In, First Out” plays well for the long-time employee, but the newer employee knows that it is time to clean out his desk. He is going to be one of the first to depart the premises with all of the uncertainty that entails.
This morning I was thinking about this mater of LIFO in the marketplace and how it has a cousin in church life. That is, there are some Christians in every church who are the last ones to arrive and the first ones to leave. In fact the speed with which they leave may qualify them for Formula 1 driving!
The local church is a Body; it is never to be merely a bunch. It is a fellowship of believers, not merely a convenient assembly of the half-hearted. It is a community where relationships matter and, because they matter, effort is made to hang out together.
The other night, our Ascension Day service was a glorious time of worship and fellowship. I was thrilled by the attendance, especially as most of us were tired and some arrived having been battered by the experiences of living and working in a sin-cursed world. I was so blessed to see whole families arrive with their little ones, some of whom would need to get up early the next morning for school. It was clear to me that the theme of the ascension was being taken seriously. That is, they were practically expressing their conviction that Jesus truly is Lord. They were acknowledging that He is Lord over and above education and physical fatigue, to name but a couple of areas.
But the blessing was multiplied by the realisation that we eventually had to ask people to leave because the building had to be locked! That is a common experience at BBC. Many of the first to arrive are also the last to leave. Some Christians just can’t get enough of each other!
As an eldership we have made the point that we are to be available to the congregation and one way that we do so is our commitment, when practically possible, to arrive early and to leave late. If we run into the building at the last minute and rush off afterwards then there is fat chance that we will do much interacting with the Body. You should expect your elders to kick LIFO into touch! But what is good for the shepherds is equally good for the sheep. And thankfully we have learned much from you.
We should remember that for relationships to develop requires that we, well, relate! And this requires time. This requires effort. This requires prioritising. This requires willingness to be with people. And that will never happen if you are among the last to arrive and the first to leave. When it comes to healthy and growing relationships in the church, we must recognize that life and LIFO are mutually exclusive.
Of course, I understand that, for some, just arriving is a challenge. In a world of skewed priorities, many who profess the lordship of Christ actually give little practical evidence of this. And so on Sundays, or on Small Group evening, many do not even show up. That is another problem that requires another article. But if you are committed to showing up then I want to exhort you to do more: Show up to build up. Gather prepared to reach out and to make connections with others with the goal to build them up in Christ. You will soon find that you are building up connections and relationships that you otherwise may never have had.
If you are one of those who is characterised by LIFO then you should examine the heart motivation. Why do you not want to interact with others? The New Testament repeatedly exhorts Christians to “greet one another”—and sometimes it throws in the added element, “with a holy kiss” (please, let’s not go there just yet!).
The point is that there is an expectation that we will desire to see one another and to affirm one another; to express to one another that they matter. But if you are behaving like a loner then you should examine the condition of your heart. For as our Lord said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”—and sometimes it speaks loudest when it says nothing.
So, rather than practising LIFO, practise FILO instead. That is, aim to be the “First In, Last Out.” Or as Jackson Browne put it in his 1977 hit, “Stay”: “Please, won’t you stay, just a little bit longer?”