No church is perfect. As much as we wish our church is perfect, it has problems just like every other church. It can be easy to find faults with the church we are attending and look for something different that doesn’t carry the same baggage that our current church does. We can get frustrated, especially when things haven’t been going the way we hope they would.
I think one of the reasons we can slip into that mindset pretty easily is that we have been trained to be consumers of content instead of being creators of solutions. We are trained and retrained to evaluate our wants and needs and find an avenue by which those wants and needs can be satiated. We do this all of the time. We see a commercial, decide if the product is something we want or need, and either buy what the company is selling or move on to the next advertisement.
Unfortunately, this how many folks treat the church they are a part of. We evaluate its health based on our wants and needs and determine if that church is where we belong. We even use the phrase “church shopping” to determine whether or not we have found the right church for ourselves and our family. This mindset is problematic to healthy discipleship and spiritual formation because we can slip into becoming consumers of church-related content instead of active creators in the life of the church. In this mindset, we become more concerned with what we get out of the church and less concerned with what we contribute to the body of Christ through our gifts, our time, and other resources at our disposal.
In Philippians 2:4, Paul tells them that they should be attentive to the needs of others as well as their own interests when we participate in the life of the church.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This means that when we are frustrated that the music isn’t our preference, we should remember that it might be the preference of someone else and that the Spirit could be using that music to bless or minister to someone else. It also means that the program that we love that might get canceled could lead to others being blessed by the space created for new programming.
If perceive that others have wronged us, Paul’s words mean that we have to look beyond our own feelings and consider the other parties point of view. Forgiveness takes priority over our feelings and rights. None of these situations are easy. They are very real situations that occur in most every church at some point. Attached to those real situations are very real feelings. When uncomfortable situations arise, a consumer-driven ethic will push us away from reconciliation toward a new place in the hope that something will be different. But, it won’t. There will be new problems in new locations. However, having a creator’s ethic can push us through these difficult situations with creative solutions that will hopefully lead to a deeper sense of community and love on the other side.
There are massive implications for us in Paul’s words to the Philippians for the life of the church. When we consider Paul’s words carefully we are reminded that we must be more than passive consumers of church content to be apart of the body of Christ. If we approach church with the mindset that all of our interests have to be met, then we are in danger of reducing the interests of others to less than our own interests. A consumer’s mindset in the church is destructive to the church.
What we need instead are active creators. We need creators who create programming that meets the needs of others. We need creators who create space for others to use their gifts and talents. We need people who bring creative solutions to difficult problems. We need creators who help create peace, not create quarrels. We need creators who know how to live faithfully and can help teach others to live faithfully as well. We need creators that will die to their own desires in favor of reaching others with the Gospel who will then go on to do what they have been taught to do.
It is easy to consume. It requires little more than our presence. Jesus wants more from us than that. He wants our full and active participation in the life of the church. Being a creator is a difficult road to walk because it comes with criticism. There will always be people who will question the work you are doing. Do it anyway. Don’t let the critics derail you from stepping into what God is calling you to do.
Questions for reflection:
- What are the areas in your spiritual life that you might be a passive consumer?
- Are you actively engaged in the life of a church with your gifts, talents, and time?
- What area have in the life of the church do I put my interests above the interests of others?