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I was talking to a coworker when our conversation turned to church attendance. He told me enthusiastically that he had just joined the new megachurch in town.

“It’s great!” he raved. “They have this breakfast bar where you can get pancakes and eggs, breakfast burritos, coffee. I get my food, then watch the sermon on closed circuit TV; I don’t even have to go into the auditorium!”

Although I am glad that my coworker has some exposure to a local church, I can’t help but wonder if his experience is all that God intends for the church.

It looks to me as though, for my friend, church is primarily about serving his own felt needs.

It looks to me like he’s a consumer of church, not a member.

What’s the Church for, If Not to Consume?

Being a consumer of church means that we come to get not to give.

We come to #church to #give of ourselves, and not (primarily) to get things for ourselves. Click To Tweet

For my friend, church is all about the services he receives: breakfast, sermon, convenience.

ferriswheelBut by Paul’s lights, we come to church to give of ourselves, and not (primarily) to get things for ourselves: “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up,” he says, in 1 Corinthians 14:26.

This means that when we are part of a church community, our orientation should be to see what we can give to others, according to the gifts that God as given us.

Are we artists or musicians? Let us create unto the building up of the body.

Can we teach or exhort? Let us speak such that others grow and are encouraged.

Whatever we have, it should be put at the disposal of the church for the good of all. If we don’t do this, then we deprive our brothers and sisters of the good that God means them to receive through us.

And It Hurts Us, Too.

Another consequence of the consumer church is that if the church is in the service industry, it may shrink back from challenging us to live truly Christian lives.dining room

But this is essential to the meeting together of the church, according to the author of Hebrews: “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,” he says, in Hebrews 10:24-25, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.”

When we are part of the church community, we should be thinking about more than simply mouthing the words to the Lord’s Prayer or unthinkingly raising our hands during the music.

We should be considering how our belief in the risen messiah leads to behavior that is consistent with our belief.

For this purpose, the community is essential. The Christian community meets us where we are, in all our brokenness, and challenges us to live genuinely Christian lives, marked by love and good deeds.

Consumers Consume Only When It’s Easy

Finally, and perhaps most perniciously, the consumer church doesn’t challenge us to put off our old selves, with all their sinful tendencies, and to be transformed.

Rather, they encourage us to feel good, so that we keep coming back for breakfast and sermons on TV.

But real church community has concern for the state of our moral lives.

Photo credit: freeparking :-| / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: freeparking 😐 / Foter / CC BY

Sin creeps subtly into our hearts, turning us away from God’s purposes. Because of this tendency, the author Hebrews says, in 3:13, “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

When we are part of a church community, we are surrounded by those who desire to see us live upright and godly lives; and we ourselves take up the responsibility to assist others in doing so, as well.

This is an uncomfortable process, to be sure, but part of what it means to grow in our faith. If we settle for a consumer church, we can never grow into the sorts of people that Jesus means us to be.

It is only in the context of community that an individual may become truly Christian.

Don’t Be a Consumer of Church

Don’t settle, then, for breakfast bars, coffee, and sermons on TV. Seek out the kind of community that will transform you, and in which you can be part of others’ transformation.

Real #church community has concern for the state of our moral lives. Click To Tweet

Only then will we be able, in word and deed, to bear witness to God’s remaking of this world through Jesus.

Only then can we truly take hold of the life that is life indeed.

Only then does our true Christian vocation come to life.

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