“Just allow me for just a couple of minutes to discuss briefly what will kill your missional community before you even get it off the ground with all these great strategies and all these paradigm shifts and it is this: Consumerism. Consumerism is a cancer to missional community. It will destroy it from the inside out. There’s the obvious application here, in that attempting to build any outward facing faith community with believers who are intent on just getting their own needs met just is simply unsustainable. It’s just not going to work. But leaders before we point the finger at all these selfish believers who are stealing all our time and energy from being missionaries to our communities, let it be said: if we develop a church built on serving the saved, then the already blessed people will come wanting more blessings. It’s just that simple. You will draw the type of people who crave what you’re offering. Only Christians want forty Christian programs to chose from…If we’re positioned to reached Christians then Christians we will reach. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with programs, but the church has a very limited amount of resources, both human and financial. So, if we consume them all for saved people, then we cannot expect our folks to live on mission else where, because they have already spent all of there expendable time and energy on the church campus. So if we’re drowning in a sea of Christian consumers, we better take a hard look at the scaffolding we have built.”
I’ve been reading up on ministry to college students (College Ministry from Scratch: Equipping Kids for Life after Youth Group, by Chuck Bomar) and want to share a little about what I have learned:
A consumer mentality is an unhealthy focus on self. And if there’s one thing that will hinder people who are different (especially from different generations) from having a relationship and serving each other, it’s a consumer mentality. Unfortunately small groups can feed this unhealthy focus. We don’t usually think about this, but it’s true. People go to small groups for what they can get out of it—for their lives. They go to get something. The motivation for going is self-focused. In our culture this is acceptable and applauded.
People talk about needing to be fed, and if they don’t feel like they’re getting what they need, they leave. This consumer mentality can be a huge hindrance to developing mature believers who remain a part of our churches. In reality, the gospel message at its very core is anti-consumer. Christ is extremely clear about the fact that those who follow him have to deny themselves. This is anything but a consumer mentality. Now, I’m fully aware that there are lots of other things that feed a consumer mentality—just about everything in our culture does, but we have to recognize and battle this in our small groups. We can do this by watching two very simple things.
- First, make sure your leaders genuinely serve others and provide great models for people to follow. Remember, college-age people don’t necessarily need another study as much as they need to watch and follow the example of others. This is what assists them in turning information into wisdom. Having leaders who live out what they know is much more effective than having arrogant and self-centered brainiacs. Harsh, but true.
- Second, focus on service in your small groups. Walk through passages that emphasize serving the needy and helpless and then serve in a variety of ways together. Plug into what other groups in your church are already doing and join them in their service work. This not only helps fight the consumer mentality with service, but it also encourages connections with others in the church. Let college-age people come up with ideas for how to serve people in your church and city. And then actually do them.
Brian Mosley, president of BluefishTV, had an interesting article about our living in the age of outsourcing. We pay someone to change our oil, cook our food, care for our yard, clean our clothes and anything else we don’t want to do. And of course we’ve all read the news reports of companies outsourcing business needs to countries around the world. So, he asks, “Is it possible that we are outsourcing our faith?”
We live in a consumer-driven culture that tells us that the customer is number one. The customer is always right. I can have it my way. I deserve the best. Consumerism has also crept into the church and turned church members into customers. The church exists to serve me and my family. To meet my needs. To feed me spiritually. To provide relationships for me. I dare say, to entertain me?
Brian goes on to ask, how many people put their money into an offering plate with the thought that “I have done my part, now it’s up to the church staff (professional Christians) to take care of the rest.” I pay them to tell me what the Bible means, to organize programs for my kids, to run evangelism and outreach projects to reach non-believers … to ______________ (fill in the blank with whatever product or service you think the church should provide).
Mosley also gives five reasons a business outsources and how the church might be doing the same with our faith:
1. Cost Savings
It’s costs me time and energy to study the Bible, serve others and be a disciple. If the pastor will do the heavy lifting, then I can save some of this time and energy for other things I enjoy doing.
2. Focus on Core Business
The pastor’s core thing is ministry. Mine is work and caring for my family. It will work best if we both stick to our core business.
3. Improve Quality
I am not really qualified to do ministry. I haven’t been to seminary or Bible college and my knowledge of the Bible isn’t great. I should leave real ministry to the professionals.
4. Risk Management
Ministry is messy. To really get engaged in ministry could lead to rejection, heartache and additional work to my already busy life. I’d rather not risk it.
5. Tax Benefit
The most measurable way for me to minister is to give money. It’s trackable and the more I give, the more I can claim as a deductible to the IRS.
Have you ever felt like this? How can we turn this around? How can we challenge people toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and His church? As Rick Warren wrote in his Purpose-Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” So, how can we help church members understand that the church exists for those who are not yet a part of the church? We are here to serve, and not to be served (Mark 10:45). We are not to be conformed to this world, but must be transformed (Romans 12:2). Don’t be normal, stand out.