There is a tale of two wolves that is often told, with the idea being that in each person there are two wolves battling for control. Sometimes the battling forces are portrayed as good and evil while in others it is love and fear; the details seem to be up to whomever is telling the story. The one thing that is consistent though is that the learner asks the teacher, which wolf will win? And the teacher wisely says, the one that you feed, son, the one that you feed.
This truth could never be more clear than when we apply this idea to the wolves of Consumer Christianity versus Biblical Christianity. Christendom today is the battlefield for two competing ideas and churches and their leaders are often torn as they try to feed both wolves.
The first wolf, Biblical Christianity, portrays Jesus as both Lord and Savior, and calls people to repent from their sin and follow Him out of the world and into a new life in Him. Followers of Jesus then form the church, which is the Family of God, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and all the other metaphors found in the New Testament. Meetings and gatherings of believers are therefore Family meetings where everyone loves one another, everyone cares for one another, and everyone participates by praying, teaching, leading worship songs, and giving encouraging words as they are gifted by God and led by His Spirit. They are like a Body where each person does his or her part to be Jesus to the world around them.
The second wolf, Consumer Christianity, portrays Jesus as Savior and Servant, and promises people that if they love Jesus then their lives will be better in every way because Jesus will do whatever they ask of Him. Nothing is required of Jesus-lovers, everything is done for them. And church is not the people of God coming together as a family or a body of believers, it is a performance put on by a few professionals who are then thanked, applauded, and compensated by the audience. Consumer Christianity demands excellence in every aspect of the church performance – preaching, teaching, worship leading, children’s ministry, youth ministry, single’s ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, etc. – and the facilities and furnishings must be second to none as well. After all, if someone down the street puts on a better show, Consumer Christians will go there instead.
Church leaders of today, then, are faced with some difficult decisions. Should they proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior and tell people that they are going to hell unless they follow Him? It’s not a popular message and some people might leave their church. Should they teach people to obey the things that Jesus taught – to love God, love one another, love their enemies, turn the other cheek, give or loan to whomever asks, to basically lay down one’s life so that others might blessed? Teaching things like this will not bring in nearly as many people as messages about Jesus giving people whatever they want.
The path of Consumer Christianity is by far much easier. Just tell people what they want to hear and do it better than the other churches in town and you can gather enough people and resources to be a success. But success in the eyes of whom? Family, friends, and community leaders? Sure! They’re impressed by all the people and the nice building and everything. Denominational officials? Probably. But God? The One who sent us on a mission to make disciples? Probably not so much, since churches that promote Consumer Christianity are filled with people who love Jesus but don’t really follow Him by doing what He taught. Often they aren’t disciples of Christ or followers of Jesus at all, they are in it for what He can do for them.
Without realizing it or intending to, we have created a monster, a devouring wolf, this Consumer Christianity that is destroying churches. We have turned Christianity, following Jesus all the time, into a Sunday morning spectacle. In many cases church has become a contest to attract the most spectators by putting on the best show -- most entertaining preaching, hottest worship band, best refreshments, easiest access, most comfortable for the hearer while requiring the least. Just come and warm the seat, pray the prayer, and put a little something in the offering basket and we’re all happy!
This church culture, this devouring monster, this Consumer Christianity has been created not by the world around us but by those of us who are church leaders. Sure, the world around us influenced us, but we made the decisions and we took the wide and easy road that leads to worldly success but eternal destruction. So it’s up to us to decide to feed the other wolf, Biblical Christianity, and turn back onto the narrow path that leads to eternal life and success in the eyes of God.
It comes down to simple choices, like who do we want to please? God or man? Do we want to be successful in God’s eyes or the eyes of men? Do we want to call people to repentance and to follow Christ or do we want to make faith in Christ a commodity that we sell to consumers? Is Christianity all about what Jesus can do for us or is it about what He did on the cross and our giving our lives to Him in return? Is Jesus our Savior and Servant to do our bidding or is He Savior and Lord who is worthy of our giving our lives to follow Him?
It is time that we rise up and intentionally feed the wolf of Biblical Christianity rather than Consumer Christianity. It is time that we pick up our crosses and follow Jesus, no matter what it costs. It is time for us to leave mother and father, worldly riches and worldly comforts, to follow Jesus. It’s time to sacrifice our pursuit of fancy buildings and worldly success to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples. Let’s not shrink back from following Him; let’s boldly go forward in the truths that He has taught us.
Questions for Contemplation and Discussion
- Does the church you lead or attend lean towards Biblical Christianity or Consumer Christianity? Or is it somewhere in-between? Make a list of examples.
- How did your church get to where it is today and how can it become more Biblical in its practices? Make a list of your ideas.
- In your church and in your mind, is Jesus a commodity that we try to get people to buy into or is He the Messiah who is worthy of our lives?
Scriptures to Study: 1 Cor. 14:26, Luke 9:23-26, Matt. 10:37-39, Acts 2:42-47
Let’s Pray Together: Father, we confess that we have strayed far from you and your precepts when it comes to how we do church. Sunday mornings have become a performance, not a time when we all come together to meet with you and with one another. Open our eyes to see how we can have meetings where everyone participates and everyone prays and everyone shares his or her gifts with others. Open our hearts to love You and love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Open our hands to bear the burdens of others and to be generous and hospitable and so fulfill the law of Christ. Open our minds to embrace new ideas and new ways of doing things that will lead us back to the old path of Christian discipleship and following Jesus. Lead me and inspire me as I lift these ideas and people before You now…. (continue praying as you feel led)