INTRODUCTION / CONSUMERISM
I have this theory that the hardest job in the world is to be a “Subway – Sandwich artist”
See, I go to Subway a decent amount. We don’t have an office as a church, so our 5 staff does meetings, etc. out in public.
And Subway is not a foreign place to us.
And I’m always amazed by how people treat the folks making their sandwich…or sandwich artists…as I believe they’re called.
“footlong…italian herbs & cheese”
“NO…I said American and swiss cheese! What do you mean you don’t have swiss cheese? IS this a joke?” (as if the 17 year old kid decides whether the 3 gazillion subway stores should have swiss cheese…which they should)
“Onions, lettuce, tomatoes…3 peppers…I said 3…are you listening?!? 3 squirts of that sauce….Oh man…your squirts are too big…start over”
I feel like I often have to apologize for the person in front of me
Maybe that’s why they always breathe a sigh of relief when I order my plain ham & cheese sandwich. J
Listen, there is now no doubt that we have made a full evolution to a culture of consumerism…
We live as if the world’s purpose is to serve us.
But how did it get to this?
Because that wasn’t the culture of 1930’s America.
During the Great Depression and the ensuing years, consumerism was the last word you’d use to describe American culture.
But our affluence and the exponential expansion of the media and technology have created a culture where we actually believe we sit on the throne of our own choices.
And all day long you are reminded that you can have what you want, when you want, and how you want it!
It’s the backbone of every commercial you see, it’s in every store you visit, it’s in the cable tv packages w/ 100’s of choices. It’s the fact that the world of information and now entertainment is at our fingertips; it’s in every restaurant you frequent
Which…from a business perspective…why did Subway surpass even McDonald’s in # of stores worldwide when so many other sandwich shops have failed?
They nailed the culture! People want choices. I don’t want you telling me what my options are for my sandwich!
And it’s not just that we need to customize everything to our liking…we’re so wrapped up in our consumerism that we’re more apt to treat people like service robots than…people.
And if you combine our need of preferences and customization with our tendency towards narcissism…you’ve got quite the consumeristic culture
A culture where yelling at sandwich artists…is just normal.
A few years ago, Google released a database of over 5 million books published between 1500 and 2008. Apparently, you can now type a search word into the database and discover how often words have been used over the centuries.
Based on this data, The New York Times columnist David Brooks offers what he calls the "story of the last half-century."
One of his main findings is that in the past 50 years, "individualistic words and phrases increasingly overshadowed communal words and phrases."
For instance, the following individualistic words have been used more frequently: "self," "personalized," "I come first," "I can do it myself."
In contrast, the following communal words have been used less frequently over the last 50 years: "community," "share," "band together," "common good."
We live for ourselves…and how we want it…and unfortunately, it’s become normal.
SO normal that we barely notice it.
Which by the way is the one of the reasons I love missions trip.
If you go with us to Haiti…to Rwanda…it will, at minimum at least shock your system to what you think “is normal”
But consumerism has become so normal to us that we don’t even notice how it’s changing the way we look at our faith…and how we view God…and how we view…even the church.
For instance, nowadays, the average American visits a church and thinks… “Okay…here’s what I’m looking for:”
I want a pleasant experience. And short.
If this thing goes over 60 minutes…don’t expect me to come back. The playoffs are on today. THE PLAYOFFS.
I need my chair to be comfortable. If they don’t have Starbucks coffee and donuts w/ SPRINKLES...I’ll be going elsewhere
I would like the music in my favorite genre. If they play country music, I’ll be leaving before the service is over (a decision I would respect)
I’m going to need some laser lights shining through fog. Every one loves fog.
And of course a message that makes me feel good about who I am. And don’t you dare make me uncomfortable! I’m here to have a good time!
By the way, one of the reasons I know this type of thinking has become so popular is that whenever someone brings their out-of-town-Christian family to our church, they always come up to me and say the same thing.
They say, “I can’t believe you said that. I mean, I know it’s in the Bible and all. And it’s good. But we just don’t hear people talk about sin or judgment or the tough things of the Bible at our church anymore”
Which to me is crazy. What are you doing then? Watching Oprah reruns?
And, it’s a harder line for churches to walk than I’m making it out to be
Because churches can cater to people’s wants and needs. Some churches have taken full advantage of this and grown to an enormous size.
But have they made disciples? That’s the real question. Some absolutely have. And some have not.
It’s a hard line though. We walk that line carefully as a leadership team.
Because to not pay attention to the culture and NOT try and meet people where they are…you might as well be Amish
You’re not going to say…it appears people are used to the high standard of HD projectors, but we will honor God and stick to transparencies!!
That’s not only a lack of cultural awareness…it’s stupid.
But there is indeed a line there of knowing how to reach people in their culture…but not succumbing to the culture either.
Like missionaries, we seek to understand the culture and reach people where they’re at, but at the same time not compromising any of God’s truth.
And our obsession with consumerism is so much bigger than church
So much. It’s our Christian faith in general. We think:
What’s my friend doing to help ME grow in their faith?
I wish this Christian radio station just played my type of music.
Why isn’t there a Christian (insert your brand here) available?
Why doesn’t my work provide a Bible study for me?
But here’s the problem. That’s MEOLOGY sort of thinking. Which is what this series is all about.
The idea that most of us but ME first. Rather than God or others first.
And if we live like that…eventually it breaks down.
If you were here last week, we talked about how relationships break down in the world of MEOLOGY.
If you make a friendship or a marriage all about you and your needs…eventually, the relationship will break because…well, no one wants to be around someone like that. That’s not a relationship. It’s not mutual.
Well, the same sort of breakdown can happen in your spiritual walk. It TOO is a relationship.
God is not a vending machine.
The church is not wal-mart.
And these other believers around you aren’t FLO from Progressive insurance…ready to serve your every whim.
Plus, consumerism not only fails us personally…it fails the broader movement of Christianity.
If we’re all in for just what we’re going to get out of it…the American church won’t even be around by the time that massive influx of babies in the nursery starts having babies of their own.
So there’s got to be a better way.
God’s way…not our way.
So, let’s look to Theology (the study of God)…not Meology
And this morning, I want to show you, not only God’s way, but what I believe, in the end, is even a better way for your own life.
Let’s take a look at a conversation that Jesus had with the mom of two of the disciples
Not unlike some of our moms today…Willing to do whatever…whenever…to make sure little Johnny gets the best!
(Matthew 20:20-28) – NIV
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We’re told that our goal isn’t to find a way to get to a place of prominence where we can order others around to satisfy our whims (like how we treat Sandwich artists)…
Our goal isn’t to find a way to get whatever we want so we can be happy
The purpose of being a Christ follower is not to sit around and have others help you grow spiritually.
That’s really an absurd thought.
If everyone’s purpose is to wait for others to help them grow spiritually…who are the people that are actually supposed to do all this helping??!?
It’s an absurd thought. And hopefully our video helped communicate that to you today.
No, the purpose…for EVERY ONE of us…is to be the servant.
Not the one being served…but THE SERVANT.
Why? Because Jesus was the servant.
He did not come to be served, but to serve
That’s an idea that’s even crazier than you think.
This is God we’re talking about.
“Do you know how often the explorers took advantage of the indigenous people in the Americas when the natives mistakenly thought they were gods?
They had them serving their every whim
But when Jesus comes…He actually IS God…and yet…he comes to serve. Not be served.
Not just to serve…but even to give his life for us.
Taking our punishment on the cross for us
Offering us a chance at eternal life
And really, it’s just that consumerism in our culture is so pervasive that it’s tricked us into believing that we are the ones that should be served.
Which, when you read the Bible…is a crazy thought.
And quite unbiblical.
Every culture faces its issues with selfishness…but ours is an epic struggle.
One of the great things about finding ways to serve other people in your life…whether through church…or your neighborhood…or helping around the house…or through a nonprofit…
One of the great things is serving others teaches you to say “no to the self”
Just like fasting is a spiritual discipline that teaches you to say “no to the flesh”
Serving others is a spiritual discipline that will teach you what it means to actually put others first once in a while.
(Romans 15:2-3) – NIV
Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
Serving teaches us to be more like Christ. To imitate Him. To walk in His footsteps.
PRODUCERS NOT CONSUMERS
Let me boil this down to a simple equation.
The main problem is that we are approaching God’s kingdom as consumers, when we should be approaching it as producers.
We should be asking questions like, “God, how can you use me today? How can I serve you today? How I can love someone in your name today? How can I help make disciples today?”
But instead, in our world of MEOLOGY, we approach it as consumers.
The majority of us get in the car after church or house groups or a conversation w/ a spiritual friend or you name it…
And we say, “What’d you think? I didn’t get much out of it today. Didn’t like the songs. David was boring as usual. Not enough Culver’s jokes today.”
Our conversations are reminiscent of what you might say after you consumed a movie at the AMC
Some of you have even been thinking today, “Ugh…I’ve heard this topic before…isn’t there something else you could teach me?!”
Which in itself, is a consumeristic thought.
See, in so many other parts of the world…Christians are taught to produce.
“I must study the Bible so I can learn this and teach others”
In America…we wait around for someone else to learn it for us and teach us in a comfy chair while sipping on latte’s.
But the vision of the Bible is that we would be on God’s team…helping reach the world .
Joining in the work of Jesus…to proclaim the good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and proclaim the year of Lord’s favor”
This is my vision for you here at renovation if you’re not there yet:
That you get in the car after church and say, “Wow, it was really powerful today when I helped share about Jesus to a 3rd grader who didn’t know who He was today”
“Wow…I got to pray for someone today at church…it was so awesome to see God moving through me. He is awesome!”
In the same chapter of Philippians that we were looking at last week for relationships, Paul “talks up” his friend Timothy to the Philippians.
(Philippians 2:19-21) - NIV
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Seems it was a problem back then too.
Everyone approaches God’s kingdom as consumers, when we should be approaching it as producers.
Producers like Timothy.
In fact, because we continue to grow quite fast as a church, so I know that SO many of you are new.
Many of you maybe even for the first time today.
If you’re looking for a church…and maybe even deciding if Renovation is the church you’re going to attend…let me tell you this.
Don’t look for a church that will best suit your needs.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
But Jesus’ upside down theology stands in stark contrast to our MEOLOGY
If you look for a church that best suits your needs…you’ll just end up disappointed.
This is not a perfect church. It’s a church full of messed up people and worse yet, led by messed up people.
We’ll probably even make you really mad at some point.
But the truth is, that’s every church.
But we’ve forgotten that as American Christians. Rather than believe in community and forgiveness and faithfulness, we’ve treated the church like Target and Wal-Mart…when I don’t like one...I’ll just consume at another…no biggie.
But this is not the story of the worldwide church…especially in Asia…in South America…
There they are taught to be producers…for the kingdom…and they grow.
Here…we consume…and we are dying a slow death.
But it doesn’t have to be that way…
If you are looking for a church right now. Maybe your first church in years…decades…Look for the church were you have the greatest chance (yes to grow), but mostly…to change the world.
See, that’s our vision…to be a people being changed by God (yes)…but TO…change the world.
Look for the church that’s reaching people for Christ and making a difference, and then get on board with that and watch what God will do through you!
See, most of us are looking at it backwards.
Like a consumer.
As if we “buy God” or something.
But the Bible says, we’ve got it backwards.
The Bible says in 1 Cor 6, that YOU were bought…with a price.
With the blood of God’s son Jesus…on a cross.
So we don’t look for the best place…or the best community to get religious goods…
God bought us. We’re his.
He OWNS us.
Our mission is to serve Him. And to find a place where we can do so.
If you’re checking out churches…maybe for the first time…let me tell you…this is a great place.
God has done nothing short of PHENOMENAL things here.
So…you should stay here…stick around…but not just to watch…but to…even better…be a part of it with us!
Because that’s what God wants for you.
In fact, God has given each of you a calling. He wants to use you for His kingdom. It might be that…
He wants to use YOU to serve the poor.
He wants to use YOU to lift-up the broken hearted.
He wants to use YOU to teach the next generation……to provide hospitality for the lonely and the isolated.
He wants to use YOU to change the world.
And honestly, we shortchange God’s calling in our lives when we think our spirituality is just a quest to make some moderate improvements on our own happiness.
God wants to use you to change the world. I’m serious.
And attitude of consumerism. “The Church of ME” is pretty small. And its vision is pretty small.
God has so much more in mind for your life!
Are you familiar with “The Ikea Effect” that researches have been studying?
A team of researches has identified a phenomenon that they call “The Ikea Effect.”
Basically, in a series of experiments and research over time, they found that people tend to have greater value in things they had a part in.
So, you might have a really nice dining room table from Schneidermans, but you might actually value your Ikea table in your kitchen more.
The one that was significantly cheaper…and you kind of messed up one of the legs putting it together…you might value that more.
Cuz it’s the fruit of your labor
See, not only does God want to use you, but I’m telling you this morning…and all series…that we put others first…about ourselves.
When we follow His ways…His THEOLOGY…not our system of MEOLOGY…that’s actually what brings us life and value anyway.
Let me explain it with a story.
Sadhu Singh, a Hindu convert to Christianity, became a missionary to his people in India.
Late one afternoon Sadhu was traveling on foot through the Himalayas with a Buddhist monk. It was bitterly cold and night was fast approaching when the monk warned Sadhu that they were in danger of freezing to death if they did not reach the monastery before darkness fell.
Suddenly, on a narrow path above a steep cliff, they heard a cry for help.
At the foot of the cliff lay a man, fallen and badly hurt.
The buddhist monk looked at Sadhu and said, "Do not stop. God has brought this man to his fate. He must work it out for himself. Let us hurry on before we, too, perish." (A note on Karma)
But Sadhu (the Christian missionary) replied, "God has sent me here to help my brother. I cannot abandon him."
The Buddhist monk continued trudging off through the whirling snow, while the missionary climbed down the steep embankment.
The injured man's leg was broken and he could not walk, so Sadhu made a sling of his blanket and tied the man on his back. With great difficulty he climbed back up the cliff, drenched by now in perspiration.
Sadhu made his way through the deepening snow and darkness.
He struggled to follow the path. But he persevered, though faint with fatigue and overheated from exertion.
Finally, he saw ahead the lights of the monastery.
Then, for the first time, Sadhu stumbled and nearly fell.
But not from weakness. He had stumbled over an object lying in the snow-covered road.
Slowly he bent down on one knee and brushed the snow off the object.
It was the body of the monk, frozen to death.
Years later a disciple of Sadhu's asked him, "What is life's most difficult task?"
Without hesitation Sadhu replied: "To have no burden to carry."
This is a deep and old truth that our culture has shoved under the rug...instead choosing to always put ourselves first.
But if you buy into our culture’s idea of MEOLOGY…
What will happen is you will lack purpose…and when you lack purpose…you will inevitably slowly drown in the swirling deception of self-centeredness.
In fact, Sadhu’s comment is right out of Scripture:
(Galatians 6:2) – NIV
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
So find ways get out of MEOLOGY. God has so much more in store for you.
Maybe it’s to serve right here at Renovation.
I believe the church is the hope of the world. And being A PART of it…not just a spectator…is one of the best things you can do.
Be a producer not a consumer. Bring purpose to your life.
Come early and help set-up. Stay late…and help tear down.
Join the prayer team, greet out front, teach children about Jesus, serve in A/V
You can sign-up on your connection card today or get more info in the hallway. Take a step.
Find ways to serve at home. Find ways to serve your neighbor.. In your community.
What’s God saying to you about this? What’s He whispering in your heart? What can you do?
I believe He has so much more in store for you.
I believe He has gifted you…and that by using those gifts…not just for yourself…but for others…as they were meant….
I believe you will not only come alive yourself…but be a part of changing the world for Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN