But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
The Reason behind Consumerism
Over the past few years I’ve heard many people talk about why they like or dislike certain churches and the varying “experiences” they offer. And while I do believe it’s almost always subconscious—and therefore unintentional—most people who visit a church tend to view it from a consumer standpoint.
Why this consumerism? Well, for starters, I get the feeling that most people don’t truly understand why the church exists. That’s most likely the biggest reason why congregations get treated as a provider of spiritual goods and services. The church, many conclude, is a place where certain religious things happen—a place we go to observe an inspiring presentation offered by a handful of gifted ministers.
Getting Church Right
Yet I believe it’s high time we banish this concept of church from our ranks at LifePoint. Look at 1 Peter 2:9 (above). Notice that church isn’t a place where religious things happen; rather, it is a people that God has called into existence for a purpose—a purpose that shapes our identity as we gather to worship Him. And it forms our understanding of church leadership, not as a few charismatic personalities who provide savvy talks and rockin’ music; but as shepherds who “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12).
When we grasp this, we come alive to the reality that we’ve been providentially positioned to declare the Good News that God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Indeed, the church exists to glorify God in the world by worshiping Him and witnessing to the power of His Gospel. Thus, we cease to be consumers and passive observers, and, through the worship of God, become joyful participants who are gathered and sent for His glory. Jack Miller in his book Outgrowing The Ingrown Church clarifies this reality, both theologically and missionally:
By [Christ’s] substitutionary atonement He canceled the debt incurred by our sins and with that legal stroke officially destroyed Satan’s authority over the nations. As long as there was no efficacious atonement for sin, the nations stood under God’s curse and the condemning authority of Satan as legal accuser. But with Christ’s assuming human nature and undergoing a vicarious death for sinners, Satan’s right to condemn transgressors is over.
Therefore the church now not only has the duty to take the gospel to all the peoples of the earth, but it is commissioned to go into the Lord’s harvest itself. Satan still blinds and binds the nations, but now his work is an illegal guerilla-style operation. The people are no longer under the authority of the Evil One, but under the authority of the Son of Man, who requires that they submit to His rule speedily, lest He burn them up like chaff at His coming. When the church goes with the gospel, it is not man’s will being carried out. The church is out there reporting a divine summons from the throne. The gospel messengers are announcing that the Lord of the harvest is on His way, and now is the hour to surrender to His salvation in faith and repentance.
That’s the point of Life Together. It’s why we gather as the church—to push back the kingdom of darkness with all authority, announcing that King Jesus has come! We’re God’s missionary agency, saved and commissioned by Him to declare His excellencies from Ozark to the ends of the earth. But we know that this announcement isn’t just for the world; it’s for us too. The church never outgrows its need for Gospel rejuvenation through gathered worship.
So as we gather this Sunday, let’s put off any consumeristic tendencies that might be lingering in our minds. And let’s remember our purpose. I pray that such remembrance will spread the aroma of Spirit-filled praise among our ranks, in order that our missionary God might receive the glory He is due.
Liturgy for Sunday, September 13, 2015:
Call to Worship: Psalm 33:1, 4-5
Confession & Assurance: 1 John 1:7-10
Benediction: based on Colossians 1:10