“God is not a product to be pushed, but a King to be obeyed” Gregory Lewis.
Like Paul’s companion Demas, they had once been “co-workers” who served on the front line of Kingdom expansion (Col 4:4, Philemon 1:24). Sadly they had abandoned the front lines for an easier way (2 Tim 4:10). They had begun to casually attended a church whose motto was “Christians should have choices” referring to their 3 short convenient services. My friend walked up to greet them and overheard their conversation about the church, “you can sleep as late as you want and not have to worry about it. You can show up to any service that is convenient to you.” My friend was shocked because in earlier days he had looked up to them as examples. The tears in his voice revealed his deep disappointment, “this isn’t what following Jesus is about! It isn’t about our convenience!”
It reminded me of a church leader who began to take a more convenient approach to services with a newspaper advertisement, “Express Worship, 45 Minutes, Guaranteed!” The ad went on with the description, “Three upbeat hymns…quick announcements…23-25 minute sermons.” The logic was to try to attract Christians who were looking for a better deal and unbelievers looking for convenience.
There is no calling to be a consumer of Christian goods and services. There is only the call to follow Jesus. It is always disastrous to turn Christianity into a product.
I can’t help but think of these types of approaches in light of the 25 calls of Jesus in the Gospels to “Follow Me.” In 20 of those calls He included some aspect of denying ourselves and giving up things in order to follow (Lk 9:23-24, 14:26-27, Mt 10:38-39, 16:22-25, 16:22-25, Mk 8:34-38, Jn 12:25-26).
While there is nothing “holy” about long services, approaching God’s Kingdom with the first priority of our convenience can be a problem. After all Ezra stood read the Bible for over 6 hours on a podium in a corporate gathering (Neh 8:3-4), and Paul drug out a message for several hours until midnight causing a young man to fall asleep and fall out of a window. Acts 20:7-10 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight… (9) And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.
Burger King or Christ the King
I remember an advertising campaign for Burger King when I was young that captures the heart of this form of consumer Christianity. Burger King was trying to cut into the market share of McDonald’s. They thought they would appeal to the idea of consumer choice which is a prized virtue. They came up with the great advertising jingle, “Have it your way.” Some of you may remember the song, “hold the pickles hold the lettuce, special order’s don’t upset us, all we ask it that you let us have it your way.”
While churches should be seeking numerical growth, should we pragmatically seek it at all costs? We want to be people who are faithful to the Great Commission, not the best deal. The Matthew 28:18-19 Great Commission is to “make followers of Jesus, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.” Growth should come with corresponding obedience to God’s word, not a have it your way mentality.
It works a little like raising a child. We must show great patience born out of love, which is “patient, kind, and full of gentleness” as we help people learn how to find, and walk with Jesus (1 Cor 13:1-7). Along the way, they have the great security of unconditional love while learning the maturity of “considering the interest of others ahead of their own” (Phil 2:3-8).
While there is an incredible great life that can only be found through Jesus we need to remind ourselves what Jesus consistently said about finding that life, “If you want to find My life, you have to first lose your life for My sake” (Lk 9:23-24, 14:26-27, Mt 10:38-39, 16:22-25, 16:22-25, Mk 8:34-38, Jn 12:25-26). This is how we mature. If not we will perpetuate an “entitlement mentality” that is more like Burger King, not Christ the King.
Things that facilitate entitlement mentalities in the church
- Numerical growth at all cost.
- Membership without following Jesus. God designed His church to be people who are following Jesus. The actual spiritual condition of members is important. The spiritual component of Biblical church membership is real salvation (1Cor 12:13).
- Ignorance of Biblical expectations of membership. Membership without His expectations becomes membership with entitlements.
- Having entitled people in influential positions. If you put entitled people into places of influence they will exercise their influence to “have it your way.” The church isn’t about our way, but the King’s way.
- Avoiding the challenges of difficult issues or difficult people. While we don’t want to pick fights we also do not want to allow bullying, manipulation, or a culture of entitlement to grow through entitled people. Additionally if we avoid problems they usually don’t go away. They only get bigger and more people end up getting hurt by them.
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