Seminary has started once again! I love it! In one of my classes, we’ve begun discussing “consumerism” and the church. I have to make a confession; I thought I understood the concept of consumerism in the church, but I was ignorant of what makes consumerism “consumerism.” I’m still somewhat ignorant, but I had an epiphany (forgive the exaggeration) after our class period. A deeper confession that I must make is this: I have been leading under the banner of “NO CONSUMERISM!”, yet at the same time I foster it, encourage it, and enable people to partake in it. I had a “white-washed tombstone” moment, so to speak (Matthew 23:27, used completely out of context, but I think you get the picture).
I have led in such a way that caters to the younger generation to some degree and to the older generation to some degree. Maybe you’re thinking, “What’s wrong with that? As a pastor aren’t you supposed to meet the needs of the people?” And the answer is “Yo.” Yes and no. And that’s a discussion for another blog post. But what I’m looking at is the motive and agenda behind making church, as we would say, “relevant” to our culture. First of all, what does a relevant church look like? What kind of music does a relevant church have? What does the relevant church pastor wear when he/she preaches? Are the lights dim or bright? Is the music loud or soft? How is communion taken? Individually dipping the bread in the juice or all-together? Does a relevant church use that hard, dry, and displeasing communion bread that looks like a tic-tac or does it use hot, toasted French bread? And in the quest to be “different,” what we really mean by being “relevant” to the community is that we want to be attractive to the community.
When I read Scripture, I don’t see Jesus, Paul, Peter, Timothy, or anyone else trying to “make” church “attractive” to the lost. They didn’t do that because that doesn’t work, bottom line. I know there are a host of other reasons why it doesn’t work, but for now I just want to stick with “it doesn’t work.” People who go the circus are attracted by the lion shows, the elephant shows, and the twisted people like the clowns (scary clowns!). The are attracted, they pay to get it (tithe), and they watch the show. Sometimes they get to participate in the show. After the show they leave. Can you imagine going to the same show, just with different variations of it each week? That gets really old, really quick.
The difference between a “relevant” church and a “relevant club” is the heart behind the movement that happens, not only on your chosen church day, but throughout the week. Is the culture of your local gathering primarily aimed at giving an attractive show so the people will like it and come back? Or is the culture of your local gathering primarily focused on pointing to the Scriptures, worshipping the Almighty God, and sharing life with one another? Shows may attract a larger gathering, but is that what you really want to aim for in your ministry to others? Do you really want to put your religious product on the shelf next to the Captain Crunch and hope someone will spend their time and money on it? Do you really want to face the moment when those people open the neatly and excitedly wrapped product labeled “Jesus” or “Christianity” and find what’s really inside? How would you feel if you paid money for Captain Crunch, but when you got home and decided to stop looking at the games and cool stuff on the box and opened it and found flavorless oatmeal? Do you really want to sell Jesus? Do you really want to represent Him this way? Do you really want to continue suppressing and monopolizing your gospel corner on your side of town? Or do you want to witness and experience a movement of God, perhaps never seen before in your area? Leaders who lead rightly, justly, and faithfully are rare. They don’t want to disturb their personal boat that contains their pride and sense of false-security they believe keeps them on solid ground. It is an illusion of control that leader simply does not have. How will you lead? Will you share your resources with another denomination or underprivileged church? Will you share your staff with them? How will you lead? Jesus is not our product and I fear we have made Him out to be our product instead of our Savior, their Savior, and the Savior of the entire world. Forgive us Lord.
Stand with Jesus and stand with me in committing to be fully devoted to intentionally loving our enemies, our neighbors, our single moms, our crazy kids, our homeless, our poor, our widows, and anyone else Jesus decides to bring your attention to. Don’t wait for someone to cross your path-don’t be passive. “Go” (familiar word) and cross-into someone else’s path for their sake. And do everyone a favor, be real before God, your local gathering of believers, and the lost. And if you’re selling Jesus as a product, you know that those you’re selling to will treat Him as such. You are an example and an ambassador or representative of Jesus.
Dying & Sacrificing for Others=Good
Relationships with the Lost=Good
Father, forgive us for selling your Son, Jesus, like a product. We repent. Help us to know Him intimately so others can see Him and perceive Him as their Savior. Give us the faith and courage to intentionally cross the paths of those who need You. Help us to cross them for Your glory. We invite you to work through us powerfully for Your purposes. Thank You Lord and to You be the glory forever. Amen.