“I’m Not Getting Fed”:Confronting the voice of Consumer Christianity

As an American I live in a consumer culture. Just check out the cereal isle of your local grocery store and take note of how many options there are for corn flakes and that is just corn flakes! We’ve coined phrases like, “The customer is always right,” “the customer is king,” and my favorite slogan from days gone by, “Your way, right away.” We’re used to paying for things and getting what we want. Almost every industry has someone else competing to offer a better or alternative product so we are never without a choice in the matter. You have tons of options when it comes to car insurance, cell phone coverage, or even what kind of pick-up you want to drive.

i'm not getting fed

To be fair, that’s probably healthy for our economy… but when we carry consumerism into other area’s of our life it can be deadly. We’re so used to getting upgrades, new leases, and trading in the old model when something new, better, more convenient that we have let that mindset creep into our relationships. Can you imagine cutting ties with a friend because a better friend came along? Or how about filing for divorce in order to get a newer younger model? (unfortunately those phrases have been used). Consumerism can trick us into thinking we have options in places where we should have commitments.

I see it in the church too. Folks send their children to one church for it’s children’s ministry, their students go to another church for student ministry, and the parents attend a different church’s community group and maybe they all show us on a Sunday morning where they have opinions about the musical style or the preaching. Folks talk about a pastor or church and say something like, “I wasn’t getting fed” and “My needs weren’t being met,” and “they didn’t have anything for me.” (All phrases that remind me of when my children were infants by the way) And that’s the rub, Christianity for these folks is just a product to be consumed. It’s about getting their needs wants met.

While that may work for corn flakes, it doesn’t work in real relationships like marriage. Consumers quit on marriages because they are consumed with their own needs instead of the needs of their partner. They would soon discover that there is actually real joy in focusing on meeting the needs of your partner and marriages can flourish that way, but that takes commitment. It’s the same way with raising children. As a society, we remove children from the homes of parents who can’t see past their own needs to meet the needs of their children. If you’re a parent, you know that there is a real joy that comes in meeting the needs of your child and even providing some of their wants along the way (despite everything their selfishness may put you through).

That is how church is supposed to work. We are to look out for one another (Philippians 2:4) and work together (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) and meet regularly for encouragement (Hebrews 10:25) and in doing so train our children to be those who commit in relationships, not those who consume. The church is the people, not the program, not the building… the people, and that implies a relationship one to another.

If you really want to grow, do more than just absorb the programming. Get involved, be invested, participate in the life of the church by volunteering. If you have children and you think the children’s ministry could up it’s game, don’t send your kids to another church, volunteer for the children’s ministry team! If you don’t/ can’t volunteer… provide snacks, offer to help financially if you are able, find a way to invest. Find the church the Lord leads you too and get plugged in and serve. You will find there is more joy in the commitment than in consuming because church really has more to do with relationships than it does with products and programs. Ultimately it is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I get how God might call you to serve another church. He does this sort of thing all the time. He certainly called my family from one church to serve another, but be sure you are following God’s call and not your own consumer impulses. And as much as possible worship together with one congregation.


 

Grandpa’s Secret Strategy for Successful Dating: And Why it Worked

I have this Bible at home.  It is worn out and falling apart from years of use.  It belonged to my grandfather.  The notes and circled verses in the Bible tell of his conversion to Christianity, his love for his wife, and a few other details.  He was one of the greatest men I have ever known.  Though he wasn’t perfect, he was consistent as a role-model.  I used to love to sit with him for hours and hear stories about him and grandma.  I figured if anyone knew how to live out what it means to be a Christian in the context of a marriage, it was him.  So one day, a year or two before he passed away I had the opportunity to ask him to reflect on what it takes to build a strong marriage.  I learned a lot that day, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was that he was genuinely friends with my grandmother.

Grandpa's Bible

He shared about how in each venture they undertook, from the farm, to owning a grocery store, to working together in a retirement home, that he loved having a work situation where she was never far and could be by his side.  They were truly great friends and worked well together. If I was going to use my grandparent’s blueprint for a successful marriage, one thing was clear, Avia and I would need to work well together.

This is really an important issue when it comes to picking and evaluating a future spouse.  Men and women were meant to compliment one another.  That is the gist of Genesis 2:18. God did not intend for Adam to tend the garden alone and made Eve to be his helper.  Men and women were made to work together.  So the question was, would Avia and I work well together?

To evaluate this and make sure we were building a relationship on trust rather than emotion we took several practical steps.  We didn’t kiss for the first several months that we dated.  We searched for common interests.  We babysat kids together.  We cooked meals together.  We played indoor games like Scrabble.  We played tennis together (and learned its better if we don’t play on the same team).  We worked on crafts together (like sewing identical teddy bears and painting small ceramic houses).  The point was to work on common projects and see how we related.  Most of this we did in her parents kitchen or living room where they could see us interact.

During this time we also sought out the advice of couples of all ages.  We sat down with newly wed couples and asked what they wished they had done to prepare for marriage.  We interviewed older couples with grandchildren and asked them the secret to their success.  We watched them interact.

Through this process we learned a lot.  We learned to communicate.  We learned it was okay to disagree.  We learned what we liked and didn’t like.   We learned how to express our feelings.  We learned our weaknesses.  We learned our strengths.  We learned that we were growing more in love with each other.

Then one night as we were reading the Bible we came to Ephesians 5.  I told her we should study that passage and really start preparing for marriage.  She told me that she didn’t have a ring on her finger and I hadn’t talked to her dad.  She was wise to put a hold on the emotional commitment that such an action would bring until their was a serious commitment toward marriage.  It brought us to a serious point of reflection to see if we were ready to start making preparations for marriage.