For the last few days I’ve written about how we invite existing believers into our house churches: we invite them into relationships, we invite them to lay their lives down, and we invite them into mutual discipleship. As I wrote, I found myself tip-toeing around the concept of consumerism in the church so I wanted to take a minute and explain the problem with consumerism.
Consumerism is a lifestyle built around the consumption of a product. It drives many economies, and in particular ours in the West. Car companies, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and countless other companies thrive, not because you need another car, phone, or computer, but because they’ve taught us to want the newest model. They’ve trained the masses to want the next best thing. Many people throughout the cultural West find their identity not in who they are, but based on what they have.
This is a problem by itself–We should find our identity in Jesus Christ and Him alone. With this shift in mindset, the church has increasingly adapted the methods of the world in order to “reach” society. I’ve known churches to offer iPads or similar electronic devices as a prize for the child who invites the most unchurched friends to Sunday School. All of this is in the name of the Gospel, but what it teaches us is to be motivated by stuff and not Jesus.
At a higher level, this infects churches and cripples ministry. The pursuit of many churches is growth. This means they have to continually move to the edges of a city where young families tend to live in order to attract new attenders with the money to sustain a ministry. Big buildings with crippling debt are the means to this end. And woe to the church or ministry who makes the wrong bet on a ministry direction and offends the wrong people. They are left with a building and debt that no one is around to pay for. This frequently hinders the proclamation of the gospel. I’ve literally seen churches (and by this I don’t just mean the building, I mean the ministry, the people, everything) sold to another minister. I refuse to listen to another church talk about their brand. I’ve watched viable churches closed because there wasn’t enough money. The list can go on and on.
Consumerism attempts to turn everything that we do into a transaction. It cheapens love. It never calls people sacrifice or to suffer. In everything, it encourages people to look for a reward in relationship to whatever they participate in, whether it’s physical reward or an ideological one (being part of the cool crowd/church/people). As you can probably see by this point, these attitudes are opposed to God’s Kingdom which is built on sacrificial love.
Don’t misunderstand me–there is a reward that we are offered in this age and the age to come for following Christ, but these are different than iPads or being part of the in-crowd. Our reward, first and foremost, is fellowship with the indwelling Christ. We get God! And then God gives us the reward of His Kingdom, spiritual family, and even possibly material gain for obedience. But these come from His hand and are attained through following Him in adverse circumstances (see Mark 10:29-30).
Friends, we serve Jesus. God the Father has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. He was raised from the dead and promised to raise us with Him. We have access to the authority and power of God’s Kingship. We don’t need to be motivated by the things of this world: success, fame, power, money. But it’s not enough that we ourselves aren’t motivated by these things. As a church, we have to repent of building systems that motivate individuals by anything other than faithfulness to Jesus. At the end of the day, at the end of the age, those are the things that will keep us faithful, not our stuff.
So would you join me, church, regardless of what type of church you are part of, from building God’s Kingdom with the straw of this world? Can we say “no” to motivating people in the flesh to follow God? Can we together disciple a coming generation to follow Christ because He is good?
It may mean a decrease in your crowd, but the disciples you’ll have left will change the world.
Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny. These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site. Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.
This week marks the return of me to blogging after letting that part of my life slide for a few weeks. I’ve had a chance to hang out with some of the coolest people who aren’t part of our house church recently. However that time spent has taken me away from writing, so I’m going to try and get back in the swing of things. This post represents the best posts from the last few weeks. Enjoy!
I think that Jesus is most frequently the part of community that we leave out when we begin to discect a Christian community. Alan writes about Jesus’ centrality in a way that makes his whole discussions on the elements of a church more palatable than most similar discussions.
One of the things that gets left out of most discussions about discipleship is the necessity of being able to make other disciples. Here Ray writes about the paradox of following Jesus and leading others into following Him.
One of the shifts that I’ve seen help people move from a static church mindset into a movement mindset is discovering the spirit of multiplication that the apostles walked in. Here J.D. talks about how that happens with a group people who currently have no vision for reproducing churches.
One of the common misconceptions in the body of Christ is that house churches in the third world are effective because persecution happening around them fuels evangelism and discipleship. Actually persecution causes the church to return to her organic roots and when she does that, she spreads quickly and naturally.
With the house church movement in the United States as new as it is, little has been written about what mature house church networks look like. This post has an incredible visual that says volumes about how a network of house churches can function interdependently.
I was over at Alan Knox’s blog, the Assembling of the Church, where he was commenting on a post by Geoff at “My Blog.” The meat of the article focused on a definition of “disciple” by Dallas Willard. In the article Willard said,
“We need to clear in our heads about what discipleship is. My definition: A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus.”
When I first read this quote, I was incredibly excited. In a lot of ways I’ve come to revise my life around the pursuit of Jesus and the mission He has called us to. However, the longer I stewed on this thought, the more something didn’t sit right with me. And I think what didn’t sit right with me is the fact that there is some more “constant revision” that needs to happen in my life. Check out this quote I stole from Jesus about discipleship:
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it,” (Mark 8:34-35).
So while I believe I am revising my life to follow Christ (and that is something seriously worth rejoicing in), I think there’s more to go. Laying down your life has serious implications that “revising your life” doesn’t always include in our typical Western mindset. But it’s something we must embrace, pursue, and in the pursuit continue to revise life so that it submits to Jesus. He is worthy of a body of people who are not just believers, but disciples.
So, are you a disciple? What does it look like to lose your life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel?
(Stay tuned Friday for an interesting thought that occurred during this post.)