“Now, let’s see. I am low on milk and eggs. And I think I need something for dinner since the whole gang is coming over. And I better get plenty of bread since my kids seem to polish that off in a heartbeat.” Common words perhaps, that often describe our rationale for running to the store. And so we head off to load up on needed commodities, armed with little more than our wallets, and maybe a few empty reusable grocery bags. All in all, a pretty justifiable behavior for a consumer.
Wikipedia defines consumerism as: “a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.”
Let’s see, I guess that pretty well nails it, at least, what I see in the capitalistic environment of our county, though I would add, “…to fulfill perceived, or actual needs.” We lack, are in need, and look to the nearest store to replenish our deficiency. We have empty bags going into the store, that we expect to be filled upon our exit. Seems logical, and more so, it is to what we have all become accustomed; but is that the same expectation we should have upon our weekly visit to church?
“Let’s see…I am low on hope and encouragement. And I think I need something for guidance since I need direction for my life. And I better get plenty of happiness, yes, plenty of happiness since I get sad at times.” Words perhaps that often describe our rationale for running off to church. And so we head off to the church to “load up” on needed “spiritual” commodities, armed with our wallets and maybe a few empty “reusable spiritual” shopping bags. But again, I ask, “Is this the primary mindset we should have when coming into the house of the Lord?”
I suggest not. At least, not the primary mindset.
That kind of expectation breeds disappointment. We hear people say, “I don’t like that kind of music.” “Is that the best the preacher could do?” Or, “I can’t believe they had those kinds of snacks!” People leave with their perceived needs unmet, their spiritual bags unfilled, and all too often return to church only when need, when expectation of fulfillment drives them back through the doors.
We have come from such a consumer-oriented worldview, that we expect the church to fill those areas of deficiency, and that is what draws us into the house of the Lord, as if God is some kind of a vending machine to please us. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we have lost the heart of what it means to go to church – and that is to worship God.
Worship is described as, “ascribing worth or value to God.” Simply put, worship of God is affirming the awesomeness of His being, His authority in all things, and thus His position in your life. You are affirming His sovereignty to Him, to yourself, to the church, and the world! A proper “worship” service, or church experience then, would be to focus on God. His glory. And His pleasure. Not ours!
Our experience should be one where we go to church and give to God, empty our shopping bags in demonstration of worship to Him. I think of the woman who comes to the temple. “A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:42-44). Her expression was one which came to honor God, to give to God, not seeking commodity. Now, she came to worship!!
We do not go to church just to hear the Word of God – the Gospel. To edify others. To serve with our gifts. But that is HOW we are replenished – by glorifying God; what we were called to do in the first place!
Now, as a by-product of true worship, I would suggest that some of those “bags” will be filled upon leaving church, though perhaps with replenishment that far exceeds the commodities you were expecting.
Remember, we were created to glorify God and love him forever.
Let’s do that, and let God take care of the rest!