Since I’ve begun my foray into examining and critiquing modern Church practices and settings in hopes to find what the Church really should look like, I have found that from the moment I began I have been met with a whole bunch of seemingly unnecessary defensiveness from other believers. The walls get thrown up almost immediately.
Interestingly, these walls, more often than not, are thrown up by those who belong to what we would consider large or mega-church churches.
This isn’t to say I haven’t seen any of the same responses from folks who belong to smaller church gatherings, I have. But it just seems to come largely from those in the larger church gatherings.
The statements usually look something like:
“Well how do you expect us to pay our pastors and maintain all of our ministries if we were to do away with a lot of what you are talking about?”
“You seem to have an issue with large churches.”
“If I didn’t know better, I would say you’re just jealous that these churches are growing while yours is not. So your critiques are clearly jealousy driven.”
“Well, what is your church doing to reach your community? Ours has thousands at all of our events. Can you say the same?”
“You’re just being impractical. The things you’re suggesting just won’t work in America.”
“Consumerism isn’t bad. After all, Paul said we ought to become all things to all people so that we might reach some.”
There is a great deal more that could be said…but that’s just a small sampling of the things I’ve been told.
There is a great misconception I want to address regarding Consumer Christianity. And that misconception is that when folks, like myself, critique Consumer Christianity that we are taking beef with the size of a church.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Church of Jerusalem grew over 3,000 people in a single day (read Acts 2). Size isn’t the issue. So clearly having a large church isn’t the issue.
The reality is, Consumer Christianity is a sickness that infects the largest and smallest of church bodies.
Think of it this way…
If I was to critique the flu and whether or not people ought to get the flu shot and people suddenly start screaming “What…do you just not care about children?”, as if children were the only human bodies impacted by the flu or flu shot, they would be missing the actual point.
Every human, no matter their size, is potentially impacted by the flu virus and the if they get the flu shot…the shot as well.
So my critique is specific to the impacts of the flu and the flu shot which is not bound to the size of a human body.
Likewise, Consumer Christianity is not bound to a specific church size or setting. It is something that can impact large Churches, small churches, mega-churches, home churches, and so on.
So the defense to what some assume I am thinking about the size of their church is entirely unfounded and not based on the facts being presented.
Now…there is one caveat I will make and that is this: Some Church models (not sizes) tend to reveal the Consumer Christianity epidemic much more readily than others.
For instance, if your Church model largely focuses on the Sunday Morning gathering, and your gathering largely focuses on a worship leader leading music and a pastor preaching a sermon while the rest of the body comes and “gets” served without the expectation of serving themselves…and there really aren’t any other opportunities throughout the week where people are able to put into practice their spiritual gifts together, and to truly serve one another and their community…then it becomes extremely obvious that Consumerism is what feeds that body.
Again, I’m not against large church gatherings, but too many churches have made the Sunday morning gathering the sole focus of all that they do. They may have various things happening throughout the week, but generally those things tend to be smaller versions of what they do on Sundays, which is, promoting and allowing a small handful of the body to practice their gifts while the rest merely sit and watch.
There may be a type of growing happening…numerically…but spiritually they are all but dead.
If you feed your body a whole bunch of junk food, carb heavy foods, deep fried buffets, and sweets galore–in addition you spend most of your time in front of the TV or behind a computer with very little if any activity in your life…you may indeed be growing in a way and enjoying yourself…but you’re not growing into a healthy body…you’re growing into an obese body.
Where as, if you were to feed your body a well balanced healthy diet, become active, spending less time on Netflix binges and computer games…you will find that your body is growing, albeit a smaller, leaner, healthier body.
When you compare the obese body to the healthy body specifically by appearance it could be argued that the obese body is certainly growing while the healthy body seems to be shrinking.
But, in reality, the obese body is killing itself by loading up on unhealthy foods and practices making it fat and overweight while the healthy body is becoming a slim, trim, fighting force to be reckoned with.
Likewise, we have a bunch of churches who are getting obese on shallow programs, rock concerts with light shows, facility expansions, mass emotional manipulation, junk food messages with little spiritual nutrition, with only a small handful of people actively serving while the rest sit around like couch potatoes watching the “active ones” do their thing and getting served their buffet meals on a silver plater.
Few churches are truly chasing after a healthy Church lifestyle because it usually means cutting out the stuff everyone craves (entertainment and getting served), which usually results in a leaner congregation which doesn’t fit the typical narrative of a successful church.
I’m currently pursuing a healthier lifestyle personally. I recently began the Keto diet which has forced me to cut out a LOT of the things I love…bread, sugary foods, and yes…even most fruits. As such I have had to replace it with heartier things like full fat foods, cheeses, meats, low carb vegetables and fruits, etc.
It is really hard, I will admit, but I’ve been on it a single week and have already lost 10 pounds!
If the American Church expects to truly have a healthy impact not only with its members, but also in its community, then it is going to take a Keto level approach.
What does this mean?
It means getting rid of the unhealthy fluffy stuff.
It means cutting back on the unhealthy things that everyone is attracted to and start focusing on the things that are actually healthy for the church body.
It means replacing the pitiful spiritual diet most are being fed with a spiritually rich healthy diet complete with meat and all the trimmings.
It means being willing to reject the entertainment based church model in favor of a more simple New Testament style church model.
It isn’t going to be easy.
You will likely lose lots of members.
But the people you will likely lose will be the ones who are simply there to sap the energy from the Church body to feed themselves on your work while doing nothing themselves.
Your numbers will shrink.
The body will begin to look smaller.
But don’t lose heart. Just like the human body that is on a healthy diet, you may experience some loss at the forefront, but what you gain will be far healthier spiritually and longer lasting than any of the fluff you had been feeding yourself up to this point.