“It is inherently Christian to do things for others who cannot do something for us in return.” “A church that only ministers to itself has become a consumer church.” Interested? I sure was.
This week, Pastor J.R. and I attended the annual Michigan Pastors’ Institute, a retreat for pastors to fellowship, study, worship, and refocus together. The emphasis this year was on financial stewardship and responsibility, on both personal and corporate levels. One of the guest speakers was Kirk Bookout, who works for World Ministry Advance, a fund-raising organization that is part of our national organization, Church of God Ministries.
Rev. Bookout spoke to us about the various reasons that people give to charities of any type, religious or secular. But in the process of this discussion, he soon began to speak about the concept of the “consumer church.”
Our present-day American culture is a consumer culture: we pride ourselves on being able to have anything we want, and we are not satisfied with the standard or the simple. We agree to buy the medium-sized value meal, because super-sized is really too much – but even the smallest size is more than enough.
The same principle has carried over into church life: we want the biggest and best for our own religious experience, and we are willing to invest ourselves (and our money) in things that enhance our walk with the Lord. New sound system? Sure. The latest projection unit? Why not! A coffee shop and wireless internet? Sounds good to me!
But then Kirk said something profound: “It is inherently Christian to do things for others who cannot do something for us in return.” You know, he’s right. That was the concept behind Jesus’s ministry: doing for others what they could not repay to him. Miracles, healings, feedings, teachings, restorations, and so on – never did Jesus expect anything in return for his work on behalf of others. In fact, he instructed his twelve disciples to do the same: they were to minister to others while taking along only the bare essentials for their journey (Mark 6:7-13).
It is essential to our Christian experience that we act, spend, worship, study, and live in ways that benefit others and not ourselves. Otherwise, as Rev. Bookout said, “a church that only ministers to itself has become a consumer church.” How do we at Mt. Haley minister? Are our energies focused inward or outward? I believe a mixture of both is essential. We must train disciples within our own congregation, but we must also find creative ways to minister to people outside our fellowship in the name of Christ.
One such outreach is coming up on Saturday, February 12. We will open our doors to single moms and other women in our community for a morning of free haircuts, makeovers, and foot massages – services that normally would cost a good bit of money and might not be feasible on a tight budget. To offer this to our community as a ministry in the name of Christ is one way – but only one – in which we keep ourselves from being a consumer church.
What else can we do? How else can we involve ourselves personally in the mission of Christ?