Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Christian Consumerism

Much has been said about the problem of consumerism in choosing a church. Where does this come from? Christian consumerism stems from the present divided state of the Christian church. This division is often over relatively insignificant things. In my opinion, this is a bad thing and resembles the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). But it is also not likely it will go away tomorrow. With this, there has also been a deterioration of the old denominational loyalties and a minimizing of doctrinal distinctions. On this I have mixed feelings. I am not at all in favor of loyalty simply to names. I do, however, believe that understanding doctrine is important. But I am not convinced we can best understand it by dividing over every minor issue. In fact, it can produce the opposite effect, with people never really understanding the other groups' perspectives. Therefore, I would advocate definite distinctions on basic doctrines, with instruction and intelligent debate on important ones. But the results of these two trends has been people choosing a church based on other issues, such as the programs or the pastor or the friendliness of the people. Is this a bad or good thing?

Frankly, we have to choose a church based on something. And unless we have strong denominational loyalties, it is hard to avoid practical considerations. Further, it seems extreme to say that couples with teenage children should not at least consider the state of the youth group in the church they are considering joining. This may be more important to them than agreement on some doctrinal incidental. But there are dangers. We can end up looking for external showiness rather than substance. For the biggest church or the most exciting program rather than spiritual depth. Also, there can be a lack of commitment; we can go to a church only as long as it suits us and leave it the minute it does something we dislike. Or simply migrate from church to church, never settling down in any of them. There also can be an equal casualness on the part of the leadership. They can feel, if someone does not like what we are doing here, they can just go somewhere else. How can we avoid these dangers?

We need a clear and unshakable commitment to God's universal church, the body of all true believers which crosses geography and time (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Colossians 2:19). This carries with it a commitment to the other members of the body, particularly those we know, to help and encourage them (John 13:34,35; 1 Peter 1:22: Romans 12:9-16). We should choose a congregation based on matters of substance. We should look for leaders and members who can help us grow in the Lord and understand His Word (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 10:24,25; 1 Peter 2:4-10). It is also important to look for a place where we can serve, which needs our gifts and talents, where we can commit ourselves to helping build up that congregation (Philippians 2:3,4; 1 Peter 4:10,11; Romans 15:1,2). Also, leaders should be concerned for the welfare of all those under their charge, even those who may not fit in with their plans (1 Peter 5:1-4; Luke 22:24-27; Acts 20:26-32). We should seek God and His wisdom and guidance when we choose a church and when we are considering leaving a church, and not do things hastily (James 1:5; Philippians 4:6,7; Proverbs 3:5,6). Our situation, like all those in the history of the world, is not perfect. But we should seek to be part of the solution rather than aggravate the problem.

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