Scripture reminds us over and over again that life is not primarily about us. Jesus says those who lose their lives will find it (Matt 10:39). A disciple of Jesus is someone who daily picks up their cross (Matt 16:24), constantly dying over their demands and preferences (Phil 2:3) to live a life of love (Gal 5:6)
And yet, living in the secular West, a “me-centric” attitude can still creep into our hearts. We use spiritual language to mask consumerist motives, avoid commitment, breed discontentment, and hold close-handed opinions on how we think a church ought to operate. Because this is the water we swim in, we need to constantly be on the alert and keep watch that we don’t succumb to a me-centered outlook.*
Below are some common consumer phrases to watch out for and how to fight against them.
Concerning Sunday Gatherings:
“I didn’t feel God because of the song choice.”
“I don’t like the music style.”
“I’m not being fed.”
“I’m more mature. I need deeper teaching.”
“I don’t love the pastors’ preaching style.”
“I just feel like I’m not growing.”
“I’ve learned everything I can here.”
When these phrases are being said, we need to step back and ask, what’s the aim of Sunday Gatherings? The Bible tells us that when the church is gathered we’re called to study Scripture together, pray together, give to the mission of the church (Acts 2:42-47), encourage one another (Heb 10:24-25), and sing together (Col 3:16). In other words, the church is not just an event you attend for spiritual goods and services (asking “what can I get out of it”); it’s a spiritual formation tool with an emphasis on God’s people gathered together.
This means we don’t expect God to radically change us over the course of a few songs and a 40-minute teaching on a Sunday - as though we have a “microwave” faith expecting instant results if under the right conditions. Rather, the biblical picture is we expect God to slowly change us over the course of years and years of weekly teaching and singing. When we gather together our call is to come with this posture of expectation for the Spirit and Word to shape us for the long haul.
“I just wish I had people pouring into me.”
“I’m just too old/young/can’t relate.”
“It’s just exhausting hearing everyone’s sin every week.”
“I don’t get anything out of it.”
“I don’t think people are mature enough for me.”
Again, when these phrases are being said, we need to ask what’s the aim of biblical community? Scripture tells us God’s people are called to follow Jesus together, consistently in each other’s lives, practicing the one anothers. In other words, God’s people are called to be a cruciformed people - modeling Jesus in everything including how we interact with one another. While we may certainly have preferences, we must be careful not to assume a church is more holy or less spiritual just because a personal preference isn’t being met. Preferences (whether met or unmet) are not pre-requisites for obedience. Just because people are not in a similar season of life or aren’t in close enough relational proximity, doesn’t excuse us to be faithful. Now, while it may be more difficult to be in someone’s life who’s in a different season of life or level of spiritual “maturity,” it acts as an opportunity to step out of fear and personal discomfort and choose to step into obedience, entrusting that God is sovereign and has you where you are for such a purpose as this.
In thinking through this, one pastor said, “A mature Christian is easily edified.”** Why? Because followers of Jesus live open-handedly. They may have preferences but they fall to the wayside because they see life is not about them. They see their relationships are committed, not contractual. They see God at work in everything. They see everyone as Image Bearers of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. They see their sin more clearly than anyone else. They are quick to confess (and pre-confess) sins that want to take a foothold. They are quick to listen and slow to speak. They have a posture of humility and service, looking to help others because they see themselves as chief recipients of God’s grace.
This is the kind of people Jesus wants to make for Himself to bring Heaven down to Earth - servants who lay down their lives to build His kingdom.
Where have you seen consumerism creep into your heart? Have you said any of those common consumer phrases before?
What’s one thing you can do this week to grow as a committed Jesus-centered servant?
*To be clear, there are legitimate reasons to have discontentment in a church, but those reasons are clearly outlined by Scripture. Such examples can include false teaching (Rev 2:14-16), abusive leadership (1 Tim 3:2-3), no fervor for Jesus (Rev 2:4-5), not zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).