The Consuming Christian and the Consuming Church
I was thinking Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. I do that sometimes… think, that is. Anyways, we’ve had a number of new people visiting our community recently. There is a general theme going on with their story. Many of these folk have come from either not being in church for a long period of time or suffering (their words) through being part of a church that is not very life-giving.
At The Well, we typically do a great job of scaring off chronic church hoppers because we’re a little, uh… different. If our ugly warehouse doesn’t care them off, something else is bound to. But, when people who are Christians come into our community, we want to be sure to let them know that we’re passionate about the unity of the body of Christ. So, we strongly urge them to be sure that they are not leaving their old church on bad terms and if they are, they really should get things right before they move on, whether its with us or with another church. If it seems like someone is running from conflict or something else, this is a problem.
Another thing that I try and say up front is that we’re not desperate for new members. We don’t “need” them as part of our community for our ego, growth, size or even our budget. We are passionate about seeing people become part of our community who are passionate about the gospel and serving God where He has them.
This gets me to the point of this post. Someone in at The Well said recently that “you can’t consume community.” I think that’s true. New people learn quick (at least I hope they do) that if you are going to be part of The Well, we’re not going to live out your faith for you. Our goal is not to make your spiritual walk easy with a bunch of prefabbed programs. If you want to get involved in what God is doing here, or you see an area that we can grow as a community, you are likely an important part of the solution! You can’t come to The Well with a consumer mindset or you won’t be happy for too long. Of course, this doesn’t mean we won’t do our best to walk alongside you. But we’re not going walk for you…
Of course there is another side to this. I think some churches are consuming churches. Growing up, I was in church on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and twice on Sunday. Now I don’t actually want to be too negative on my church that I grew up in. I loved that church experience. I learned of God’s love there and it it was full of amazing of people. But, the fact is, the church ruled my life. I was always at church events. We were a heavily programmed church and as a result, I was very rarely “out” in the world relating to anyone who wasn’t a Christian (its a good thing I was in public school so I could at least relate to the world a little bit). In a sense, the church consumed me. (Which, ironically taught me to be a consuming christian. Consuming all the programs and all the services that they offered me. It could be argued that even consuming opportunities to serve.
Here’s the problem. When two things consume each other…one of them has to die. Right? When two animals fight, one consumes the other. They are either both desperately wounded or one of them wins.
I wonder if this is what happens to many of the people who end up leaving larger, consumer driven churches. The people who are really good at consuming get by and make it. But the ones who are willing to serve and really want to give end up getting consumed…
(Note, I am not willing to say that large chuches are evil, they just have this big challenge to deal with. Small churches have their own challenges to deal with).