Exploring Hope: Consumer or missionary?

There is a spiritual disease in modern America called “consumer Christianity.” This disease is rampant among evangelical and reformed believers, especially in wealthy suburbs like Garnet Valley and Chadds Ford. But at its root, consumer Christianity is an unbiblical mindset that turns Christians into consumers and churches into businesses.

So here’s my question: Are you a Consumer Christian or a Christian missionary?

If you’re not sure, here are two diagnostic questions to consider:

First, how do you choose a local church?

  • Consumer Christians say, “Ask not what I can do for my church but what my church can do for me.” They look for relevant music or well-oiled programs that are already established.
  • On the other hand, Christian missionaries say, “Ask not what my church can do for me but what I can do for my church.” Rather than attending a local congregation for what they can get out of the church, they look for opportunities to serve and use their gifts. For example, they may choose a church near their home so that they can invite their friends and family. They could drive 45 minutes to a church with better preaching, more people their age, or shinier programs. But they want to be missionaries and are willing to sacrifice the “ideal church” for the sake of the gospel mission.

Second, why do you leave a local church?

  • Consumer Christians tend to be serial church hoppers. They attend a local church for a while because they like the services it provides. But eventually, they get bored, have conflict, or disagree with the direction of the church. The church no longer offers what they hoped for. Therefore, they “feel called” to move on to a new, shiny church where they can consume something new and better.
  • But Christian missionaries tend to be loyal. Yes, they want a church that faithfully preaches the Bible and administers the sacraments according to the Word of God. Yes, they want a church that is devoted to prayer, fellowship, and evangelism. But they won’t leave a church for petty reasons as long as they have the opportunity to serve and use their gifts for the glory of God.

In conclusion, don’t simply join a church to receive a spiritual service; join a church to worship God with God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Don’t have the mindset of a passive consumer; have the mindset of a missionary. In all, look for a faithful, gospel-preaching church that needs you to serve and use your gifts for the glory of God. Be a missionary, not the consumer.

About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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