I-Centered Christianity

I have a confession; I am a consumer at church.

At the church my wife and I attend, the pastor texts several men from the church each Saturday night asking them to fill a role in the morning service. Too often I find myself overjoyed not to receive a text; I am now free to enjoy church.

An Entitlement Mentality

I’m sure that I’m not alone in this consumerist attitude toward church. And it’s no wonder, consumerism surrounds us. Ads tells us that we need more. Amazon gives us the option to purchase with only one click. And we hear again and again that we should be living our best life now. Essentially, life is about me. I should receive what I want without any effort.

Sadly, rather than seeing the consumerist attitude for what it is, we regularly embrace it as a part of our Christian walk. We interact with our church families as if they are here only to serve, encourage, guide, and support us.

Now you may be thinking, “I don’t approach church this way,” and this may be true, but I would encourage you to think again. Consumerism is subtle; it may have slipped in without you noticing.

Common Pitfalls

This mentality of serving self shows up in many forms. The most common is avoiding or complaining when asked to serve. I am ashamed to say that this happened to me only a few weeks ago. I was asked to teach sunday school for a brother who had recently had a baby, but rather than thinking of him I thought of myself. I didn’t want to put the work into it, plus I didn’t “have enough time.” I believe we fall into this sinful trap far too often. Looking back I would have had the time; I just didn’t want to do it.

Another pitfall is continually searching for a church to satisfy our wants. Consumerism says, “I must have what satisfies me, and once it no longer satisfies me, I will move on.” You will hear someone with this mindset say, “I feel called elsewhere because my current church sings too slow, no older person takes an interest in me, or I just don’t get a good connection with God there.” There are legitimate reasons to leave a church, but maybe not as many as we think. Church isn’t a place for us to satisfy our selfish desire, but rather, an opportunity to edify the body of Christ.[1] It is through the giving of ourselves that we find true satisfaction in our church experience, not by moving to a new church.

A Gospel Mentality

The consumerist perspective and the biblical perspective of church cannot mix. Their core beliefs are opposed to each other.

Think about it; a biblical church is founded on the gospel:

…God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).[2]

Jesus came and, without regard to Himself, gave Himself for us.[3] In addition, Jesus frees us from the chains of sin, pride, and selfishness that entangle us. “Our main problem is selfishness and we don’t get saved from that by appealing to self. We get saved from that by the proclamation of the gospel.”[4]

As Christians, we are commanded to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.[5] This is the opposite of a consumerist attitude. Consumerism aims “to feed and satisfy the desires and demands of self. However, at the heart of the gospel is a call away from self (because self is the problem) toward Christ (he is the solution).”[6]

A Service Mentality

How do we avoid the consumer mentality in our church selection and interaction with fellow believers? By following Jesus’ example of service and self-denial as seen in the gospel. Just as He gave up everything for us, we, as believers, must set aside our entitlement mentality. The apostle Paul explains:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.[7]

Rather than avoiding service at church, we should see it as an opportunity to place our brothers and sisters needs above our own. And if our church isn’t supplying our perceived needs, instead of searching for a new church, we should trust God to care for and provide for us while we care for those around us.

We cannot be both a consumer-driven and gospel-centered believer. The one excludes the other. Either you complain, avoid, and dread service or you follow Christ’s example of selfless love. You either feed the demands of self or you surrender to the Spirit.

Who are you?

Aaron's Radi-Call Bio Photo Aaron Beery and his wife, Sadie, live in Elnora, Indiana, where he serves as the Administrative Assistant at the Elnora Bible Institute. He enjoys playing the piano, singing, reading and horseback riding. He hopes to use his counseling training to speak into people’s lives in this sin-cursed world for the glory of God.

1. Hebrews 10:24-25
2. Ephesians 2:4-5 (NKJV)
3. Philippians 2:5-11
4. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/a-gospel-centered-church-cannot-be-consumer-driven
5. Luke 9:23 (NKJV)
6. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/a-gospel-centered-church-cannot-be-consumer-driven
7. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

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