“What you want is what you get.” “The customer is always right.” “Have it your way.”
You can hardly get out of bed in the morning without being barraged by marketing and advertisements. They all use different approaches, but they have the same goal in mind: your business, your support, your patronage.
To accomplish this goal, they cater to you. Make you feel special, wanted, important. We are surrounded with voices loudly declaring that they exist to serve us, to meet our needs, to improve our lives.
As a result, each day we move closer to the center of the universe. Even when we reject the idea intellectually, we often devote ourselves to it subconsciously. We believe that life is about us.
I’m a big advocate of price-matching to get the best deals possible. This culture has created a bit of a problem. How do we go from the marketplace, which makes us feel like the most important thing in the universe (at least until they have our money), to the church, without bringing that same attitude with us?
While Walmart or Target might make you feel like they are all about you, the church definitively is not.
Hard Truth: There’s no ‘I’ in church.
Not in the spelling. Not in the mission. Not in the purpose. The church doesn’t exist to make you happy, meet your needs, or satisfy your desires. If a church operates that way, it has failed to understand the purpose of its existence and is not operating as a true church should.
Yet, we try to put that ‘I’ in the center of church. We judge the quality of a church by how WE feel about it. I liked the music. I liked the message. I liked their style. We bring our preferences into every aspect of our assessment. We bring our views, our wants, our goals into the church. I don’t want to be in just any group. I want a singles’ group so I can cancel my Match.com membership. Often, we come to church with an agenda, with an expectation that the church, like every other institution we encounter, exists to meet our needs. It doesn’t.
The church does not exist to satisfy our desires. The church is not here for our comfort. The church isn’t about us. The church is about Jesus. It exists for Jesus.
The church is not a social institution for our entertainment; it’s a training camp for disciples. Yes, the church is a place where many of our needs and desires can be met. When we make it about us, focus on ourselves, we miss the reality of what church is. Church is the kingdom.
It’s not about us. It’s about the community of the people of God working together in harmony for His glory. Bringing the “I” into church isn’t always an overt action.
When we come to church with a self-centered focus, we defile the heart of what church is about. Most of us would never admit openly to such an attitude. That doesn’t mean it’s not reflected in our behavior.
When we prioritize our comfort, preferences, or satisfaction over faithfulness to the Gospel, engagement in Godly community, and investment in the mission of Jesus we take what is all about God and make it all about us.
When we assess worship not by how pleasing it is to God but by how we relate to the music style or how we feel about the song itself, we are taking worship; the praise and recognition of the greatness of God and making it about us.
Listen to how we pray. Most of our prayers are not seeking God’s direction, seeking His transformation, desiring to know and submit to Him. Most of our prayers sound like a kid sitting on Santa’s lap listing off all the things he wants for Christmas.
Our prayers have become: Jesus give me this, Jesus give me that. Don’t let anyone I care about get sick. Make sure all the people I know travel safe. Where is the Kingdom in this? If God answered all our prayers with ‘yes’ how would His kingdom be different?
If we are being honest, in most cases, it wouldn’t. Our prayers are more often trying to tap into the power of God for our personal good then they are us trying to align ourselves with the heart and character of God. We take worship, prayer, church, community and rather than seeing them as something greater than us, we try to recraft into something that is all about us. There’s no ‘I’ in church. We need a heart change.
We are in danger. In some ways, in more danger here then Christians living in persecuted countries. Not because the threat against our lives, but because there isn’t. The lack of physical danger creates an ever-growing Spiritual apathy. We take for granted God’s grace and mercy. We feel entitled to His freedoms and blessings. We feel no shame living as if life is all about us. We are not in danger of being killed for Jesus, we are in danger of not truly caring about Jesus.
We take the Gospel for granted to the point where we don’t value it. We show up to worship, when it’s convenient. Engage in community, if we feel like it. Read the Bible, if we have time. Serve, when there’s nothing better to do. We are too comfortable neglecting, ignoring, and deprioritizing Jesus for the myriad of other things in our lives. We can’t hide behind the excuse of busyness.
When we say we are too busy to do what Jesus has explicitly called us to do what we are actually saying is: my life, time, priorities are more important than His. My comfort is more important than His mission. In our comfortable society, we are more likely to try and fit Jesus into the leftover scraps of our free time then we are to truly devote ourselves to Him. We are far too comfortable making excuses for why we don’t have to do what Jesus tells us to do.
Jesus didn’t call us to be comfortable. He called us to be faithful. If we are only faithful when it’s easy, we aren’t faithful at all. The greatest joy we will ever know is when we leverage all that we have and all that we are to live on mission for Jesus. That is why God created you. That is why Jesus saved you.
When we look at all that those who came before us had to deal with and struggle through, how can we do any less? How can we offer the God who gave us His Son any less than every part of our lives? Church we have a mission that is bigger than us. We have a reason to let go of ourselves and live for something greater.
It’s time we stopped living for ourselves, focusing on ourselves, and bringing that “I” into church and our relationship with God. In the Kingdom of God; we is always greater than me. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves. To deny ourselves. To love others as we love ourselves.
The Christian life is not about us, it’s about letting go of ourselves so we can know, follow, serve, and love Jesus effectively. When you become a Christian, you die. You die to yourself. You stop thinking about yourself. The life we live in Christ is a life that is devoted to Christ.
So let’s be clear: Jesus doesn’t need us. He graciously offers us the opportunity to be a part of what He is doing. In His goodness and love God allows us to participate in His redemptive work in the world. He lets us be a part of His transformative work.
He gives us the privilege of partnering with Him to invest in a kingdom that lasts forever. Do not be deceived into thinking that means He needs you.
If we chose not to engage, not to participate, the Gospel will still advance. God will just use someone else to do so and we will miss out on the joy of Jesus.
Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is the author of Zombie Church: breathing life back into the body of Christ. You can find more of his work on Facebook or you can follow him on Twitter @tedwardsccc.