I am a church member. I teach a small group in my church. I occasionally preach when my pastor is out. I give to the church faithfully. I have been involved in other ministries in the church over the years.
But I sometimes start acting like a church consumer instead of a committed church member. Instead of focusing on others as 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 clearly demonstrate, I start acting like the church is supposed to serve me. I want to get my needs met. I want things a certain way for my family and me. My unholy trinity is me, myself, and I.
Tracking My Own Attitude and Behavior
Recently, I’ve started tracking my own attitude by going through a series of signs that my commitment to my church is not what it should be. Here are eleven signs that I am becoming a church consumer instead of a committed church member.
You know you are becoming a church consumer when:
Your worship attendance becomes optional.
You replace in-person attendance with digital attendance (though I fully understand that some people are unable to attend in-person).
Your attendance to a small group is declining, or you stop attending completely.
Your attitude toward your church is more critical.
Your giving declines or stops.
You critique sermons instead of listening prayerfully.
You see church as a place to meet your needs instead of your meeting the needs of others.
You move readily to another church when your needs are not met.
You get frustrated at what other church members aren’t doing.
You don’t pray for your church regularly.
You don’t share the gospel.
Church Consumers Are Not Biblical
The local church is the dominant topic in the Bible after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Indeed, the entirety of the New Testament, from Acts 2 to Revelation 3, is either about the local church or written in the context of the local church.
The local church is God’s plan A, and he didn’t leave us a plan B.
I am a church member.
Sometimes I need to be reminded to act and think like one.
I was recently listening to a world-famous motivational speaker. Indeed, listening to him was as entertaining as watching late night television. He mounted the platform with all the charisma and energy of a rock star. His speaking capabilities? Flawless. Eloquent. Tantalizing. As I sat there immersed in a sea of 10,000 people, I hung onto his every word. He was incredibly pleasing to listen to…
But as I listened to this man’s speech on the four universal desires of every human being, I began to think – to analyze. I thought to myself, “What makes this man so incredibly successful at motivational speaking? Why am I so intrigued by his words?” So, not as a jerk, but as a polite observer of culture, I began to take some personal notes…The results of my analysis somewhat shocked me…Indeed, to state it bluntly, these observations are what make for an incredible motivational speaker (in the world at large) and a great cult leader (in the church world)…I know, I know, that was an ouchy thing to say, but notice my observations below…
He spoke as an authority unto himself. In his incredibly thought-through, four-point outline of the four universal desires of every human being (i.e., aliveness, connection, meaningful pursuits, and growth), he never once referenced a source, book, quote, or statistic. Not. One. Time. He simply, confidently, and enthusiastically stated each one of his main points, relying on no source material, except himself. To be sure, his own personal success and fame made him a functional authority to the 10,000 people in the stadium, but still, he referenced no source material. Yes, he spoke as an authority unto himself.
He weaved “believe in yourself”throughout his speech. Now, this is not a new cultural message/mantra; I get that. But up until this speaker, I had never (not one time) heard someone in culture define exactly what “believe in yourself” means. This guy did; and it blew me away. He defined “believe in yourself” as encompassing two primary ingredients (i.e., worthiness + capability). He encouraged, with great gusto, 10,000 of us in the stadium to think and identify ourselves as both worthy (of everything we want and desire) and capable (of getting everything we want and desire). Wow…”Believe in yourself” = “Worthiness + Capability”. Do you know what he just defined/explained…WORSHIP! Biblically and theologically, we promote the worship of Jesus (who is God) because we attribute to Him (and Him only) ultimate worthiness and capability. So, when you hear that common phrase in wider culture – “Believe in yourself” – understand what some people are advocating for when they say that…”Worship yourself because you are worthy and capable of everything your heart desires.” Am I overreacting? Reading too much into this statement? Maybe. But just think about it…
Heunified cultural desires and religious thoughts. In other words, he would mix in religious (even biblical terms) throughout his talk. His speech was littered with words like “joy”, “relationships”, and “service”. He went on to make the statement that every religion promotes as “the highest form of enlightenment” the concept of “unity”. Possibly the only cringe moment for me in his entire speech. Why? Well, because Jesus actually promoted something far different than the concept of “unity” as “the highest form of enlightenment”. In fact, he promoted division…”Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34)…”I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). But this man’s thoughts resonate within wider culture…Our culture desperately wants “unity” to be “the highest form of enlightenment”…I wonder what the ramifications of this thought process for true Christians would be…Hmmm…
He kept hisspeech simple and used alliteration. A fairly simple observation, but it plays a part in this man’s success as a motivational speaker. He had four simple points that were easily rememberable and he even used alliteration (i.e., doubt, division, and delay) to describe the greatest hindrances to the four universal desires of mankind (i.e., aliveness, connection, meaningful pursuits, and growth). Indeed, his overall presentation was engaging and easy to follow. Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Now, unlike the three points above, I’m not saying that simplicity and alliteration are bad things, but coupled with the above three points, it makes for a tantalizing…but dangerous concoction.
So, there you have it. Just some personal observations on a popular motivational speaker that might give you some insight into the inner workings of our wider culture. Indeed, as much as I am a student of the Word, I try to be a student of culture, understanding that our ultimate enemy is not culture itself, but the Evil One behind culture…Be aware. Stay alert. Stay strong.
How did we get here? This place of a seemingly alternate reality where up is down and down is up. Where reality seems to be completely subjective and where my truth and your truth may disagree and both be true at the same time. Nowhere is this more obvious in our world today then in the so called gender revolution.
Many people have written extensively on this issue but I want to give some brief thoughts of my own and point out how this is the logical outflowing of humanity’s attempt to snatch the power to define good and evil, beginning way back in the opening chapters of Genesis. Even with a fallen human nature it still is a big jump to enable us to deny basic reality about man and woman but the starting point for such a radical fall is the denial of the authority and existence of the one who made everything and therefore gets to define everything.
This is what I mean, when we misunderstand the nature of mankind, and misunderstand the source of morality, we quickly will veer off any sane path and into the worst kind of ditches. Carl Trueman writes a very helpful book called “Strange New World” where he provides a helpful review of the writers and philosophers who moved our society in this direction. I want to discuss two of the basic stepping stones that our culture has used to take us from where most everyone had an accurate understanding of the basics of life to where we don’t know what a woman is. The first stepping stone was that of the natural condition of man.
During the enlightenment it became in vogue to believe that mankind was born basically good and that any corruption that was exhibited in ones character could be blamed on society at large. This idea was greatly advanced by writers like David Hume but was perhaps most famously articulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He believed that good was most clearly seen in that which was most closely tied to nature. He wrote often of the “noble savage” who did not have the corrupting constraints of society and could therefore most act on his natural self. Put basically, people are born good and it is society and institutions that corrupt them. Therefore we need to tear down the institutions so that people are free to express the good that comes from within them. Mankind is the basic source of good.
The second stepping stone that has lead us to our confused moment in history is that of who decides what good is? Before the enlightenment very few public thinkers would have questioned, much less denied the existence of God. It would have been taken for granted that there was a God and that he is the moral law giver. During and after the enlightenment critics and sceptics were granted powerful voices to shout down and scorn the existence of God. With the rise of Darwinism, many felt like they were no longer required to believe in an external creator because they had an adequate natural explanation. This led a man like Karl Marx to believe that the moral laws that are articulated in the Bible and were promulgated by the societies and governments of his day were simply tools of oppression. Religion was only a means of power. In this view there was no ultimate lawgiver and therefore man had to rethink all of right and wrong.
I know that these are very basic and crude summaries of these very powerful cultural voices but when you boil it all down, in order to get to where we are at today, mankind first had to deny original sin and affirm internal goodness. Additionally, mankind also had to deny an external law giver. If we are born good and if we are the source of good, then whatever I feel on the inside is what is moral and right. The only transgression in this society is to deny someone’s feeling of self. That is why culture demands that we affirm everyone’s belief about themselves, because if you deny what someone else is feeling about themselves, you are denying their personhood.
This worldview only leads to despair because it is constantly running up against the reality that mankind indeed has an innate and internal evil that manifests in hurtful and self-destructive behavior. It also leads to the hurt and destruction of those around us as we constantly act in our own perceived self interest. Ultimately, this is the outflow of mankind rejecting the Creator’s good design and His good law for us. God made us in the beginning in the image of God as male and female to glorify and enjoy him forever. What we see played out around us is the radical rejection of God’s good design and the headlong plunge into delusion and self destruction.
We need a Savior. Not just a Savior who pays for our sins, but one who sheds the light of the Gospel into our hearts causing us to reject the lies of the world and allowing us to receive His truth. We need the Spirit to open our eyes from the natural blindness that we inherit from our first ancestor and his rebellion. True change for good in our culture won’t come from electing the right politicians but through changed hearts and lives that come through the Spirit by means of prayer and the preaching of the Word. May we be individuals who do just that.