People should know what we’re against. But people should also know what we are for. This is true in any sphere. It is certainly true in the body of Christ. We are immersed in a consumerist culture. This means that we have absorbed consumerism into our being, just like a sponge absorbs water. Make no mistake, we are children of our consumeristic times.
As a pastor, I see just how much a consumer mindset has infiltrated believers when they are 1) looking for a church and 2) serving in a church. When people are looking for a church, they “shop” around to see which church will serve them best When these same people join a church it impacts their service because they remain committed to getting rather than giving–or giving nominally rather than sacrificially. I liken church membership to a bank account. A person typically makes deposits and withdrawals. A balanced church member does both. A church member who only withdraws (benefits from ministry) just drains resources–it’s an unsustainable pattern. A church member who only deposits (participates in ministry) burns himself out. As church members, we need to do both. I appreciate the congregation of Bible Baptist Church (BBC), the church at which I serve. There are a good number of people involved in the work of the ministry. This post is not a backdoor critique of the congregation I shepherd. On the contrary, it’s a joy to do the work of the ministry with many of the saints at BBC. At the same time, every American Christian has marinated long enough in a consumer oriented culture that we cannot escape its influence.
This brings me back to where I began. The Apostle Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ reveals that a consumer mentality (a focus on me and what I can get) is the polar opposite of a ministry mindset (a focus on others and what I can give). The two cannot peacefully coexist. So believer, do you want to be counter-cultural? According to the Apostle Paul, if we are going to be anti-consumerism as believers we must be pro-body of Christ.
I’ll close with a citation that prompted this post. Paul Tripp communicated the importance of the body of Christ when he wrote,
Many of us would be relieved if God had placed our sanctification in the hands of trained and paid professionals, but that simply is not the biblical model. God’s plan is that through the faithful ministry of every part, the whole body will grow to full maturity in Christ. The leaders of his church have been gifted, positioned, and appointed to train and mobilize the people of God for this ‘every person, everyday’ ministry lifestyle.
The paradigm is simple: when God calls you to himself, he also calls you to be a servant, and instrument in his redeeming hands. All of his children are called into ministry, and each of them needs the daily intervention this ministry provides. If you followed the Lord for a thousand years, you would still need the ministry of the body of Christ as much as the day you first believed. This need will remain until our sanctification is complete in Glory (Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, ix).