Consumer Spirituality

Warning: Thinking out loud to follow…

On Monday I asked the question, “What is the Church?”

The answers some of you provided were all pretty solid. But they left me wanting.

Most of them took the tack of either describing the “real” church vs. something else, or the “localized” body vs. the larger all inclusive body. What I’m struggling with is the fact that almost everyone I know immediately takes the global body of believers and breaks it down into something more manageable.

I think we do it because we don’t see the global body functioning like one.

The trouble with that is that we go to a denominational distinction, or a theological distinction that separates, divides, sorts out rather than including and fostering unity. But should we be fostering unity? Yes, yes I know the New testament calls believers to unity in the faith but as soon as you start talking ecumenical-ism people get all fired up and start worrying about the One World Church of the Anti-Christ!!

In order to avoid THAT entanglement people start to talk about individual faith. Which leads to comments about individual faith experience, which leads to existentialism, which leads to Nietzsche, which is NEVER fun.

And while we’d like to think we don’t go THAT far…what about comments like these:

  • “We’re church shopping at the moment”
  • “The Bible calls us to give financially and you really ought to give where you’re being fed.”
  • “We really enjoy more of a contemporary service.”
  • “We’re looking for deeper teaching on Sunday.”

Nothing necessarily wrong with those right? Except that they sound an awful lot like someone trying to select a great restaurant: Right for the occasion, value for your food dollar, ambiance, interesting menu…

Is it possible that we’ve become so good at consuming that we’ve fit church into our shopping basket mentality too?

Before you go condemning the consumer wholly, (I REALLY wanted to typo there and go with Holy), you have to ask if the church models through which we browse doesn’t in some ways facilitate such thinking.

Churches can’t exist without offerings and we’ve all known church leadership folk who have bemoaned a congregation that isn’t giving and we’ve all heard THOSE conversations start to talk about the services the church provides and what might need to be cut if giving doesn’t come up…which sounds a lot like restaurant management conversation.

Please don’t hear me casting blame in ANYONE’S direction here. I’m just trying to sort it all out in my own head, but it seems to me we’ve gone off track somewhere along the line. If we’re all a part of the body, one body, with one head, what does that look like?

Maybe I asked the wrong question the first time. Maybe the question isn’t What is the Church. Maybe the question is:

Are “The Church” and “The Body” the same thing? If they are, why so many bodies?





5 responses to “Consumer Spirituality

  1. I (trying to be funny) say- the problem with the church is that people are involved. Funny but true! I love the church- people messed up, people agenda driven, people relentlessly pursuing Jesus, people with right below the surface dealing with a lot of pain, people who profess Jesus is Messiah. Since Acts 2, the church has been discussed and measured, romanticized and critiqued. But I gotta beloved that there are so many bodies because there are so many people who profess Jesus as the Christ. The church- isn’t She lovely?

  2. Curtis I have been “thinking out loud” about this question for quite some time. I wish I had a better answer but where I end up is that there really should be one body and one head. The church should be all believers or brethren and not set aside by address or style or program etc. Christ, of course, the head of us all. For me, all believers are the body. The body and the church should be one. However, there are many parts to the body and that is rarely acknowledged with enthusiasm. Why? I think because we are all wounded parts of the body. When a body part is wounded it becomes isolated, needy and demands to be made top priority. Sometimes, I feel like we are all out there growing our particular brands and forgetting about the things we do have in common. Like Jesus – and old Michael W. Smith songs.

    We trade members like a game of Go Fish. Somehow forgetting to reach the “lost” because we are too worried about the “found” finding the way to the back door of our buildings.

    Great questions – stop it would you – I need to get some sleep.

    • So when does the “Body” start to look more like ” a house divided against itself”? Wounded or no…

      • Ryan Daffron

        Specifically, I think when it starts tearing others down and evaluating others by preference. May we always choose love over personal liberties.

      • Good point Ryan I would add a few thoughts.

        When – Today. Now. Unfortunately, the signs of this are everywhere. We are in some important ways divided. Not all is lost, but we are floundering.

        When – In the absence of Grace and Humility. Historically, the ministry of Christ could be defined as counter cultural. He was counter cultural because the absence of both virtues in God’s people drove Him crazy. Author and Theologian John Dickson did some research and conclude that Jesus was the sole reason humility became a popular virtue. (Humilitas 2011) – great read.

        It appears to me that Jesus used love, humility and grace to reestablish a new normal. Through these virtues he further defined Truth. I think that is our challenge today. A new normal – carried out in love with grace and humility.

        I guess. 🙂

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