The Church for Mission vs. the Church for Consumption

The following is an excerpt from my sermon The Church: Myths and Misconceptions (Part 1) delivered at South City Church, 7.30.17.

The Biblical reason we join and are a part of a church isn’t because a particular church offers the “goods and services” we want and like — making the church into something like a business, and us into its customers or consumers. The church is a people, a community. And the reason we join and are a part of this church community is for the sake of advancing our collective Christian mission — together.

When we become consumers, church becomes about “what I get out of it.” And when that happens, what determines “how I chose to do church” (or, as we might say, where I choose to “go to church” — as if church is something you “go to”) is what suits my preferences, what I like, or what meets my perceived needs.

In such a model, the church becomes a place where I come to be served. The pastors and the staff are the ones who do the ministry (rather than everyone). “It’s their job. They’re the ministers,” we say. “My job is to receive and be served.”

And so we come in, receive our bill of goods, and even remain anonymous if we want, like a fly on the wall. Church is conceived of as something we attend — an event. Or it’s an institution that provides services and programs of which I can avail myself, if I like.

But in either case, in those instances, I am a consumer. The church is not a community on mission. But the provider of a service. And I can take my “business” elsewhere if I am not satisfied, or if I find something else that I like better.

I’m not saying it’s unimportant that we benefit from our church involvement, that we — for lack of better words — “get something out of it.” Don’t get me wrong. Churches should be healthy. And part of that means that they should be communities where people are nourished and can grow. There’s a definite sense in which we as church members should be receiving. But, even so, we receive as co-participants and partners — not mere consumers.

Biblically speaking, the reason we join and are a part of a church isn’t because it has all the “gizmos and gadgets” that we like. Even if they’re nice things, even if they’re not wrong, the reason we “do church” is somewhat regardless of that. The reason we “do church” is because we are on a collective mission to follow Christ and to see other people become followers of Christ, which can happen with or without those things.

This is why, for example, a church plant like South City Church can exist. This is why we can band together without financial funding, gathering in a mediocre hotel atrium, in a less-than-quaint part of town, and without all the bells and whistles. -Because it’s not about those things. It’s about mission and living faithfully as Christians. And one expression of that, which we’re seeking to fulfill here, is planting churches, that we might spring up more communities of disciple-making disciples.