Are we consumers or a community?
I read an interesting article recently about a consulting firm that conducted a national survey on church health. The discovered five key indicators of a healthy church, one of which they labeled “consumerism vs. community,” or as the article said so well, “the American ‘me’ versus the biblical ‘we’.”
Consumer churches are a collection of people who act as individuals, using the church to meet their basic needs without contributing significantly (that means beyond writing a check) to the church’s mission. Consumer will attend a church until it stops meeting their needs, and then will find another one with the right blend of programs and activities.
The consumer mentality is one that certainly pervades our suburban culture. Almost any and every store in existence is within driving distance, and what we can’t find at the mall can be bought with the click of a mouse. We have a plethora of services available to us, and we have come to expect that if we pay our money, we should get something in return that meets our standards. If I pay for food, I want it warm and tasty. If I pay for a lawn service, I don’t want to see dandelions and crabgrass.
Does that mentality extend to our relationship with the church? We pay our offering and we get a sermon, communion, and a few good conversations on Sunday morning. Our kids get quality Sunday School and youth groups, and we are offered fellowship events and opportunities to serve others. And if the church stops meeting our needs, we can always go somewhere else. Is the church another service that’s offered to us, or is it more than that?
According to the survey, the opposite of consumerism is community. Community in a church is defined by deep, caring relationships, social connections, and a stronger personal commitment to the church’s mission. That commitment is lived out through participation in the church’s ministries. In other words, everyone does their part to help the church reach its vision.
The vision of our church is “to be a thriving congregation that changes lives through Christ.” I have been blessed to witness this vision lived out in numerous ways over the last few years. Lives have definitely been changed through Christ, and it’s been the hands and feet of this congregation that’s helped make it happen.
Opportunities for us to participate in this vision are arising every day. For example, this past fall we started a new Sunday School model that enhances the children’s learning about the biblical characters and stories. It’s an amazing program, and I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from parents, teachers, and most importantly, the kids themselves.
But to make such a program successful takes a lot of work. Because I can’t be involved in the program on Sunday morning, I think I sometimes forget how much work it takes to make it successful. The people who work with our children do such a tremendous job that I assume it must be as easy as they make it look. But I know it’s not.
Our Sunday School program needs you – to help teach, to be a shepherd, or to help in some other way. But it’s not just our Sunday School that needs you. It’s our Public Relations team. And our Stephen Ministry. And our choir. And our Outreach program. And all the other groups that serve God through their various ministries. Of course, you don’t have to do all of them. But being a community together means that everyone does something.
Jesus said you don’t light a candle and then put it under a bed (Luke 8:16). You let it shine. God has ignited a gift in you – to teach, to sing, to serve. Don’t hide the gift. Become part of the biblical “we” with us.