We're in a series where we will see how the gospel of Jesus affects every area of our lives. Each post will look at how the truth of the gospel changes how we view a certain aspect of life and its implication in our lives.
There are a couple satirical videos going around online by some Christian comedians that you may have seen. They hilariously poke fun at the consumeristic view which many Americans have when finding a church. Similar to the style of the Onion or the Babylon Bee, they mock the self-focused mindset that many have when "church shopping" (I actually hate that term. But since most of you will know what I mean, I'll use it). Their videos play off the reality show House Hunters and create a new show called Church Hunters.
First of all, these videos are really funny (click here to see a previous blog on how the gospel changes our view of humor). And the reason they're so hilarious is not just because they're well acted and clever but because they are so true. In these fictional "church hunters" I saw myself, especially the 21 year old version of me. The reason I picked (or didn't pick) a church was mostly based on ME, although I'm sure I hid it well with spiritual phrases that masked my self-focus and pure consumeristic motivation.
So before we move to to see how the gospel changes our view of church, watch at least one of these videos just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about. Enjoy!
Apart from the gospel, our view of church will probably look quite similar to Church Hunters, right? We live in a culture saturated with meeting our wants, preferences, and desires. If you don't like something, there are a dozens other options available. As a famous fast food chain says, "Have it your way." Apart from the gospel, we'll view church solely based on what we can get out of it. "Do I like the worship? Does it meet my perceived needs? How's the feel? Am I entertained? Is the preacher funny, hip, and (fill in the blank)? Is the coffee good? What about the wifi?"
Now these aren't necessarily bad questions to ask. But the gospel changes our view of church. We go from viewing church just as individualistic American consumers to seeing the church as our spiritual family. In the gospel we're now not just religious consumers of goods and services but rather we're saved into a new community, saved into a God's family. Think about how healthy families live. They're committed. They see themselves as part of the solution. They see that they are needed. They fight differently with their family than they do with enemies. They want others within the family to grow and even give sacrificially of themselves to make that happen. They celebrate and mourn alongside their rejoicing and grieving family members.
Another way the gospel changes our view on church is by calling the church, calling regenerated, redeemed Christians, the Body of Christ. In multiples places in the New Testament the gathered group of believers is called Jesus' body. And out of that, we're reminded over and over again that we need each other! A body can't function without it's individual parts (or at least not healthily or for too long). Similarly, each individual church needs its fellow Christians. So when we view church solely as an individual and consumer, we're completely missing out. And the church God is calling us to is also missing out.
Through the gospel we're now not just given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of everything Christ has promised us. But the Spirit also gives every Christian spiritual gifts: grace imparted, Spirit empowered abilities that are mostly for the strengthening of the church. Now because of the gospel, we don't just view what we can get from a church but we intentionally look for how we can use our spiritual gifts (as well as our time, talents, and resources) to build up the church.
We look for ways we can serve (not just receive).
We look for for needs we can fill (not just our own needs).
We look for how God is using this church (not just how this church meets my preferences).
Everyone within a church is called to give up their preferences, from the senior leadership to the member. We don't give up our preferences because they're unimportant but because there is something even more important. "What's more important than what I want?" a 21 year old Spencer might have asked. The answer is the spread of the gospel to those who don't know him yet and the building up of the church in love and unity.
At Hiawatha Church we're deliberate and intentional in everything we do. For all ten years of our existence we're asking the question, "How can we best reach our part of the city with the gospel?" and "What is God telling us is best for our specific church?" So we don't just do music or communion or coffee or community groups or preaching or kids ministry or hospitality or length of service just because we've done it in the past or because it's tradition or because its what the leaders want to do. But we're always thinking about how we can remove stumbling blocks to people hearing and seeing the gospel. We're all continually denying our preferences when we gather for the sake of others, whether its other Christians or people just checking out the faith.
The gospel frees us from having to make church all about us. The gospel empowers us to move away from American consumerism and towards Christ-like love and sacrifice. The gospel changes our hearts from thinking solely as an individual and begin to see others as even more important than ourselves (sounds a lot like Jesus' attitude right?).
As Sarah Bessey writes to us western Christians, "We can pontificate for days on what the Church is doing wrong and what needs to change, casting judgment easily. We tend to think en masse or point fingers as a coping form of disassociation from our own culpability."
So instead of complaining, judging, and critiquing, the gospel calls us to ask these types of questions:
- When problems arise, how can I be a part of the solution?
- Where can I use my spiritual gifts to strengthen my brothers and sister in this church (or the church in general)?
- What needs are present that I can help meet?
- What is Jesus asking me to do to serve him (remember, the church is called his body)?
- How can I get excited about the vision of my church and how God is using it to reach unbelievers and grow a healthy, unified church?
Jesus frees us from the prisons of us putting ourselves at the center of the universe. In the gospel he tells us he loves us so much, that he died to save us not just to himself but also into his family (the church). He gives us spiritual fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. He calls us to join him as we go into the kingdom of darkness and bring his message of love and forgiveness! And he calls us to do that with the same mindset: denying ourselves and seeking the best for others.
SPENCER PETERSON / COMMUNITY LIFE PASTOR