Thursday, April 23, 2009

'We not me'

Although it is a gross generalisation and I am sure there are many exceptions, it seems clear to me that the church in the west is now about 'me' and not about 'we.' The individualism which blights western thinking and civilisation has beset the church.

Church has become another place to consume to satisfy a need. We go to restaurants and cafes to satisfy our need for food. We go to movies, sports games, watch the box, surf the net and more to satisfy our desire for enjoyment and entertainment. We go to shops to satisfy our wants and needs, to buy the things to make our lives great. We are a me-driven society. We are consumers. We are materialists. We pick and choose from the many options open to us almost completely from a 'me-centred' perspective.

Our law favours the me over the we, unlike many other nations, where the 'we' drives legislation. Our education system is designed for independent thought, we are obsessed with personal freedom, we hate to be dictated to by 'the man,' whoever the man is! We are in a 'me-centred' world and everything is about me.

Church then is treated by many in the same way. We go there to get out spiritual needs satisfied, it is about me. So we go to the place to find the right worship mix, right teaching, right peer group (like people my own age or 'like me'), right children's program, right youth program, right coffee, right time, right location etc etc, just for me. We will even drive past 20 churches just to find the right one for 'me.' It is 'me' and not the 'we.' We are spiritual consumers. When it no longer meets our needs, we leave and move on. When the kids out grow youth group, we leave for another church that fits 'me.' Most of the time we don't even stop to explain why and thank the people who have led the church.

Those leading the church play the game. It is about bums on seats. Get the 'me's' in the door by satisfying those needs. This means we need to have a great product for the spiritual market; right language, right look, right style of worship and preaching, right image, right niche, right coffee, right time, right bla bla bla. We seek to find what it is that will make the consumers come. In some instances the concern is to find a way to attract unbelievers, but most of the time we are seeking to draw from a limited market of believers people to fill it up. This will get us more money so we can have more programs for the consumers.

I have led churches and I admit the pull of this. Your job is on the line if you don't bring em in, at least keep the church the same size, and better, grow it. Doesn't matter if they are there because you are a better product. If we just get the music right, the preaching right, the kids and youth program right, they will come. But why? I unwittingly fell into a snare. I played the 'me' card. It is not about the 'me' it is about the 'we'.

This is worrying me. Church is about 'we' not me. Christianity is a team sport, and there is no 'I' in team.' Problem is there is a 'me' in the team and we miss it. We have forgotten that the essential unit when we get saved is 'me.' When we decide for Jesus, accepting his decision for us, we become Christians. From that moment on, the 'me' becomes the 'we.' We join a body and we are there to serve. Christ embodied this. He left heaven and came to earth as a 'me' and instantly set up a team. How far did he push this, to death! It is ALL about 'we' and not about me. The struggle of Christianity is to live for others completely, prepared to give our lives for the team. Jesus then said to the team, go and bring in the world. Yes, all of them. Every nation. Every person. They are all invited to the feast. Every one of them is invited into my team.

Church is a people who gather together as one people, and serve. One of the problems of the 'me and not we' approach is that we tend to favour churches that ask little of us and entertain us and feed us well. They are great places for 'me'. So we rush off to big churches which have lots of people, we can hide in the 'we' and be 'me'. We don't have to do much because there are professionals doing the work. They have the bucks to pay for a really good show, entertain the kids and youth. So we gather in big groups which appear to be doing well, and other churches are in trouble. We can fit church into our busy 'me' lives in which we self-actualise and fulfil ourselves. We are free to be me!

What about all of us going to the nearest bible believing church from our homes. We go to serve. We go not for 'me' but the 'we'. We don't go cause the program but we go to wash feet and serve. We go to do what has to be done to have worship that glorifies God, where people are cared for, where the community is reached with the love of Christ. We go to support some struggling pastor who is exhausted trying to 'raise the dead.' We also live in the community instead of travelling across the city to get there, so we can invite our neighbours, we can witness in the community and stop the fragmentation of society (that's another blog!). We go to meet people unlike us, to do the hard yards of tough relationships, help with the ministries and get our hands dirty. We actually sacrifice 'me' for the 'we.' Hey that's what Jesus did!

We go and we don't give up after the pastor says something we don't like, the kids program is not great (its up to parents to raise their kids spiritually!). We stop being thin hided whimps who run when someone says we don't like. We hang in there in relationships learning what it means to love the unloveable and be the unloveable that others then love. We get involved and we make sacrifices to do so. We become members not just spectators. We join the team and don't just watch them at work. We work for change. We contribute. We don't moan about the music, we support it and encourage it. We use our gifts for its growth. We stop behaving like immature 'me' consumers and we are 'we' Christians.

We have sold out to the world on this one and we have not realised it. It is a dangerous game to join the consumerism and apply it to church. What happens is 'me' becomes god and it is idolatry. We have enthroned ourselves and usurped God. Church will always ultimately lose in this pattern. We must refind the 'we'. More importantly, we need to find the 'thee', but that is the next blog.

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