Hey, Calvary Fremont –
Are you a Consumer Christian or a Disciple of Jesus? What’s the difference?
A Consumer asks, “Does this please me?” A Disciple asks, “Does this please God?”
A Consumer asks, “What will I get out of it?” A Disciple asks, “What can I put into it?”
A Consumer has their comfort in focus. A Disciple has God’s glory in focus. Consider this passage –
In those days I also saw that the Jews had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah, but the language of his own people. Nehemiah 13:23-24
Unfortunately, it seems that with Consumer Christianity, half speak the language of the Marketplace and none is able to speak the language of Discipleship. Pastors have learned to address Christians as Consumers and not as Disciples. Let’s consider the Church Prayer Meeting – the least attended scheduled meeting of the church. A lot of pastors think that they have to ‘sell’ the Prayer Meeting to the congregation. (Please note that the word ‘sell’ is a Marketplace word.) A lot of pastors have learned how to speak Marketplace in the attempt to convince the people that it is in their best interest to come out and pray. “You’ll be blessed if you come and pray. You’ll meet God in a new and powerful way if you come and pray. Your faith will grow as it is exercised in prayer.” Notice the emphasis: here’s what you’ll get out of it; here’s how this will benefit you. On the other hand, the language of Discipleship calls the church to pray because God commands us to pray and to call on His name and fall on our face and intercede for the needs of the church, city, state, nation, the nations.
It’s already a defeat for the Church in that Marketplace language is used in the first place. It also reveals a pastor’s assumption that this is the only language the people in his ministry will understand. Consumers have to be coaxed with promises. Disciples are ready to go. A pastor shouldn’t have to sell the Church Prayer Meeting to the people!
It is easy to fall into the trap of speaking to the Church as one speaks to Consumers. Consumer loyalty is a thing to be coveted, and so pastors have to appeal to their self-interest and seek to convince them how their product will make them happy. Why would someone buy your product if it wasn’t in their best self-interest? It’s easy for pastors to see the people in the church as Consumers and not as Disciples. It’s easy to speak the language of the Marketplace and not the language of Discipleship. It’s commonplace to invite people to church because of all the things we can do for you. We have to please you to keep you from going to the church down the street. We appeal to you as Consumers of religious products and not as Disciples of the Living God. God forgive us this nonsense.
Consumers and Disciples think about the Church Prayer Meeting in two different ways. A consumer is concerned with what pleases them. A disciple is concerned with what pleases the Lord. Prayer is not pleasing to the flesh. Bobby might come to pray if it were a more exciting meeting. Billy would come if they offered donuts. Betty would come if the worship band would play her favorite tunes. Consumers attend if there is something to consume.
Why did Peter, James, and John fall asleep when Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray – prayer didn’t excite or entertain them. Have you ever fallen asleep in prayer? Don’t ask the elders of CC Fremont if I have!! The prayer meeting is the least attended meeting in the church’s schedule because it is hard work – it is not pleasing to flesh. It is not wrapped in an ethereal glow where the ruffle of angels’ wings are commonly heard. Some people have bad breath, others burp, some afflicted saints can’t help but have gas escape their bodies which makes you wish the leader would quickly say the closing prayer! Some people blab on and on about only God knows what. Some pray so softly that I give up trying to listen and only wait the for “Amen.” Others say “Uh, uh,” so often that you want to strangle them!
I was out of town years ago and visited a church for the midweek service. The speaker said, “Prayer is hard work – like sowing a field.” That hit me like a ton of bricks. What do I get out of sowing a field? How does it please me? How does it bring increase to me? In the short-run, it doesn’t. It is a hard and thankless task. Yet I know a harvest is coming. Prayer is hard work – it is sowing seeds of faith. Isn’t it amazing that you can think about someone for an hour – no problem. But try to spend a minute in prayer for them and you meet opposition. You lose focus and so many other things come rushing into your mind. Prayer is hard work because prayer is resisted. It’s an assault on the strongholds of the enemy and he is fighting back. The devil doesn’t care what you think about – but he sure cares what you pray about!
I don’t say in announcing the Prayer Meeting, “You’ll be super-blessed and God will reveal Himself to you in ways you haven’t seen before.” I don’t say that because prayer isn’t about you – it’s about God and what He desires to do. Prayer is about the Kingdom and not just your castle. We don’t organize the prayer meeting to please you, because again – it’s not about you. We don’t try to keep you pumped & enthused – we try to focus on God and His Kingdom. Are you a Consumer or a Disciple? Is your dominant filter that which will please you or that which will please the Lord?
My task as a pastor isn’t to keep the Consumer Christian happy, excited, and entertained. My task as a pastor is to turn the Consumer into a Disciple. I don’t wrestle with Disciples – but I do have to wrestle with Consumers. I don’t have to wrestle with Disciples because they’ve taken up their cross and are living crucified lives. Christ has conquered them! Consumer Christianity doesn’t require a cross; Discipleship Christianity does. Consumer Christains have not yet taken up their crosses – they’ve got a lot of fight in them – but the cross will conquer them! Are you a Consumer or a Disciple?
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim