Most of us are consumers. A stroll down the cereal aisle of the local grocery store proves it. Colors, costs, and cartoons compete for our commitment and cash. We have options-galore, where marketing is king, branding is everything, and consumers are fickle.
Consumerism is about the perceptions, preferences, and interests of the consumer and leads to a self-oriented life. Tired of a certain service company? Drop them for another. Didn’t like a meal at a restaurant? Don’t leave a tip but leave a terrible review on social media, then go elsewhere next time. Have a problem with your child’s school? Leave. Experiencing struggles in a relationship? Escape. Cutting someone or something off should be the exception, not the rule. Rather than work through challenges, consumerism leads people to walk away from challenges, rather than work through them.
Sometimes people ask with good intentions, “How can I find the right church that fits me and my family?” While they are not walking down the cereal aisle, they are walking down the road trying to choose one church from a myriad of options. God certainly calls different people to different contexts, but a warning is needed: A consumer mentality can affect and infect almost anything, but is always deadly in a church. Here are a few things to consider when looking for a church home.
First, look for a Bible-preaching, Gospel-centered church. A primary question everyone should ask is not “What does this church do?” but “What does this church believe?” Beliefs always drive behavior. What a church believes is the most important thing about it. Christianity is centered on God, who has revealed Himself through the Bible (the written Word), and ultimately in the person and work of Jesus Christ (the Word made flesh). “Jesus saves” is not just another gospel, it is the only Gospel. Unless a church’s beliefs and resulting ministry flow from God’s Word, people settle for a placebo that might make them feel better, but do not deliver the soul-saving, life-nourishing, daily-transforming medicine they need.
Second, look for a place to serve. Do not to ask, “Does this church fit me?” but “How can I fit in this church?” The first question demands the church “serve me” and “meet my needs” whereas the second desires to “serve other” and “meet needs.” Don’t look for what you can “get” but what you can “give.” The Apostle Paul likened the church to the human body (1 Corinthians 12). Every single part (person) is important and benefits the body as a whole. If you are a Christian the body needs you, and you need it, too!
Third, look for ways to help others grow. Babies fuss, throw fits, and must constantly be fed (1 Peter 2:2), but those who are maturing regularly feed themselves (Hebrews 5:12-14). One takes energy from others, while the other gives energy! The more you are growing you will be better equipped to help others grow. The New Testament is filled with 56 “one another” commands, to love, encourage, teach, warn, build up, and serve one another. It’s impossible to “one another” without “another!”
So, if you are looking for a church home, trade a consumer mindset for a serving mindset. After all, the church is not a cruise ship meant to cater to your every desire, but a battleship, where every person on board plays a key role. We are not on vacation, but on mission. Every Christian is on active duty, so commit yourself to getting plugged in, equipped, and sent out.
Chris Larmoyeux is Pastor at First Baptist Church of Maumelle