The Church: Consumerism

The Church: Consumerism

I suppose it shouldn’t come to a surprise that when you spend your days beings fed marketing and advertisements about everything that will make your life easier, happier, fulfilling; that we start to treat Church the same way. Many of us are even fully aware that we too often treat Church with a consumeristic mindset, many of us are fully aware this issue, yet we still feel it plaguing our congregations. Mentally we are aware, yet we keep making decision that perpetuate a broken culture. Out of our will to draw people into the Church, we risk focusing selling a message that says this is about you instead of this is about God. Even individually, how often have we thought about switching churches or criticized sermons because we “just didn’t get anything out of it” or we don’t like what’s being taught because it just doesn’t feel right to us, even it’s clearly spelled out in scripture.

Like many bad behaviors, the only way to fight back against consumerism is to focus our thoughts and actions that align with what we know to be true, even when we don’t want to. You’re going to not be in the mood to go to small group or volunteer or listen through a boring sermon. The only way to not consume, is to produce. There’s a reason Paul preached about our Spiritual Gifts; we’re supposed to contribute. When God made man, he made hit to cultivate, create, and make things better. We were never intended to seek what builds us, we were made to build creation.

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 

1 Corinthians 14:1-4

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. 

Romans 12:3-5

What’s always drawn me to 1 Corinthians 14 is not just that it shows how to have order in a gathering or even the idea of prophesy being called out as a superior gift, but instead the motivation and reason behind prophesy being superior over speaking tongues. We see in Romans 12 that there are different parts of a body, but they aren’t the same and they have different purposes. The Spirit grants gifts and they are all good and purposeful. Yet we are told using gifts to edify the church are superior. We are to edify, encourage, comfort, build others up. That is where our focus should be. Romans 12:6-8 implies that our gifts are active and to be used for others. If teaching, teach; if service, serve.

One of my favorite fundraising events we did for the nonprofit I work for, was a theme called building the Church. Several church leaders shared about the impact their church had in the community and then went and laid a fake stone on a pile until we had built a rock church, complete with a steeple on top. How wonderful it was to be in the presence of hundreds of Christians celebrating what the Church was doing, how people used their gifts to care for others and to be able to worship God together and hear all the wonderful ways He was moving through the Church.

I guess the real irony is, that consumerism is often driven by our desire to be happy; yet we will only have true happiness and fulfillment when we give and produce. Everything else is an attempt to fill a void, a void that can only be filled by our true living water. Only from that cistern being filled can the streams of living water flow from us.

37On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified

John 7:37-39

The sad reality is, that when you get to the heart of consumeristic Christianity, we’re trying to fill that void with human wisdom to satisfy ourselves. It’s self-serving. It’s about what we think will make us happy, fit our preferences, meet our expectations, keep us comfortable, fit our theology narrative, make us feel good. It’s focusing on entertainment over content, worship style over lyrics, doctrines of grace without depravity, and Pinterest quotes over studying scripture.

For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jeremiah 2:13

The danger is that all these ways of filling ourselves up are built on faulty logic. Because it’s human logic. Our logic leads to death, God’s logic leads to life. And God says to build up, edify, cultivate, give, serve, love and you will have life and peace. In then end acting counter-culturally will lead to your happiness.  

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:5-6

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Cor 1:25

1 Corinthians 1:25

To Church leaders: be aware of seeker-friendly models. We want to welcome new believers and those searching, treat them with dignity and respect, make them comfortable in our building, invite them to belong to our family, but we can’t work so hard to please seekers that we forget our role to build disciples, spread the Gospel, and have rivers of water flowing from our churches and we cannot sacrifice or soft sell Biblical teachings.

To Church attenders: stop asking what your pastor or Church is doing for you but instead what are you doing to build up the Church body you’re a part of? At the nonprofit I work for, we start every serving event by making all volunteers repeat after us, “it’s not about me” because we need to set aside our expectations about what we want to do and instead ask, what does God want to do? And don’t participate in tertiary arguments about how many songs were song, the color of the carpet, or the temperature in the auditorium is too cold. We are privileged to get worship our Lord and gather together to be taught the Word, let’s not let our ease of religious freedom lead us to the ease of consumer church.

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