Recently, I was reading a blog written by Carey Nieuwhof entitled, “Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense.” In case you’ve never heard of Carey, I’ll simply tell you that his ministry is designed to help Christian leaders thrive.
Naturally, the title grabbed me (as all good blog titles should do). Being a blogger myself, it’s become quite apparent that posting an eye-catching title is at least half the battle. It’s also the part that can get you into a lot of trouble (but I’ll save that topic for another day).
His blogs are interesting (as was this one), but one particular line jumped out at me during this reading. The lead-in stated the concept we’ve all heard numerous times—we don’t merely attend church, we ARE the church. Then he wrote, “The reason you would go to church today is that you’ve moved from being a consumer to being a contributor.”
“You’ve moved from being a consumer…”
This is nothing new either, but we don’t always hear it stated in that manner. When I first became a Christian, a lot of folks used to put it this way: “Don’t go to church to see what you can get out of it. Go to see what you can put into it.” The concept is as old as the New Testament, but it’s one we need to restate ad nauseum because we often revert to being consumers rather than contributors.
Being consumers allows us great freedom. We are free to complain, cajole, and snipe from the back pew because we’ve got nothing at stake. We are free to pick and choose the church that placates our perceived needs. We can surround ourselves with people who think like us. We can avoid being challenged by the directions and foibles of people whose directions and foibles are not like our own.
“I only buy Heinz Ketchup…”
In short, we get to pick and choose. If, at some point, we sour on our original choice, we go make another one. It is, after all, the American way—consumerism. There are reasons why I only buy Heinz Ketchup but never buy any of their other products. That mentality is the same one we often bring to the church.
Nieuwhof follows up the earlier quote by saying, “You don’t just go to be served, you go to serve. There’s something deeply scriptural about that.” There’s an enormous problem with this, however. If we go to serve, that means we’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder with other folks. Other folks are often a problem because they don’t always fit into our way of thinking or our pattern of living.
Someone once said, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join it. You’ll ruin it.” While that’s mildly humorous, it’s also wildly true. There is, of course, no perfect church. I suppose that’s one of the reasons Peter called us living stones (1 Peter 2:5). Have you ever attempted to build something out of random stones? It’s no easy task.
Being the church is no easy task either. Give it a try.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently the pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]