The solution to consumerism in the church is found in the above quote. I’ll state it again: 10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. It seems clear that the Bereans were commendable because they were self-feeders. Yes, they were taught the word, but they apparently spent a great deal more time studying it for themselves and their study paid off presumably because they decided to do something with their knowledge. This resulted in many coming to faith. What an awesome model for the church to follow! I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach the word, but when we create a consumer culture in our churches, we end up with a less mature congregation…a congregation with a very low tolerance for change. A culture which lacks patience for things like transition.In many churches the ministry is largely about “knowing”. If we’re going to change mindsets, we need to change our focus… to teaching people to do something with what they know. Wouldn’t it be more commendable to teach people to be Bereans and spend more time helping them know what to do with their knowledge? In Acts 17 we read:
Transition is difficult, but I am thankful the Lord brought me to Northstar and for the mission He’s given me. My job is to teach people the more practical side of Christianity…to do something with what they have learned. God brought me to Northstar with this very specific mission in mind. The previous pastor laid the groundwork quite well for the next phase of Northstar’s development. He did a very good job of teaching the “meat and potatoes” of the Word from all accounts. That is what he was called to do for his season. I have noticed a high degree of biblical literacy in the congregation and I’m thankful for that. As we move forward, I believe I have been brought here to help Northstar take a next step. To do that will mean helping us all root out the consumer mindset which living in the Western world has ingrained in us. It means taking all we’ve learned and putting it to work in our community in new ways. It means learning to share the gospel with people with a high degree of cultural relevance and savvy. It means leveraging modern communication and social engagement methods. It means creating a highly understandable, authentic, relatable, yet deeply spiritual Sunday experience preferring newcomers to ourselves. It means inviting. It means investing. It means not becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy by leaving before we really give God a chance to do a new thing.
While I understand that some turnover can be very healthy for a church, let me offer this advice. No one wants to see their home church go through hard times. Yet sometimes when we leave too soon or fail to see the new thing God wants to do in and through us, we end up creating the very difficulties that bother us. For example, nobody likes to see attendance go down on Sundays. Yet when there is a downturn and we leave because we perceive there to be an unhealthiness in the church…we end up contributing to the issue of low attendance. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must leave room in our hearts for this truth because if we don’t, we may end up wrongly judging what’s going on at church in the first place and leave for all the wrong reasons. At Northstar I’ve noticed this very phenomena. For example, recently someone chatted with me about how many people left in the past 5 months. As he was talking, God brought to my mind exactly who has and who has not left during that time. So I stopped him and challenged the record. As we talked further we ended up realizing that essentially 2 families had left that we could pinpoint. We also acknowledged that several had left prior, during a time where the church had no pastor and some even left before that for normal reasons. But in the past 5 months, only 2 families had left. Yet this was not the perception held by many. PERCEPTION is a huge issue and can easily end up contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies. Another example is worship. It takes time for a worship team to gel, especially when there have been changes in it’s leadership and a new pastor comes into play. So when the worship isn’t “what it used to be” and those who love the old ways leave, they take their enthusiasm and passionate worship with them. Another self-fulfilling prophecy. Wouldn’t it have been more desirable for them to stay and press through, continuing to assist the worship team with their passion and zeal for worship? Would this not be a shorter path to getting the Sunday worship experience where it will hopefully end up? Is this not the opposite of consumer mindset?
Now that you’re probably deeply offended (I hope not), let me offer some upside. On the upside, God is doing great things even in the midst of flawed people like you and me. Thank God He is able to work with us considering all the baggage we each carry. And believe me, I include myself in that group. I’m so good at carrying baggage I should have worked for the airlines. Perhaps I missed my true calling. But in all seriousness, God is moving. In the past month we’ve seen a significant uptick in visitors and next week we’ll be having our first membership class since I’ve come to Northstar. Our new welcome center is up and running and looks great. The new coffee bar is also getting a huge positive reception and our all-acoustic Christmas Eve celebration is just around the corner. In January our new small groups start up and right now leaders are preparing. Two new outreaches are planned for the New Year. The Ladies’ ministry is running on all cylinders and growing. The New Year’s Eve Game night is in the planning stages. God has shown me a vision of where Norhstar is headed and I’m excited about our future together. I shared with the church this fall that God has given me a dream of a full sanctuary. Last night He added to that dream. As I slept, He showed me a church full of visitors. This is significant because it’s part of my personal vision for ministry which lies at the heart of everything I’m about and flavors every decision I make. It’s a powerful vision and I thank God for it. The dream was a reminder just when I needed it most.
Northstar is a vibrant church. We are fortunate to have a wonderful core team of people who are deeply committed to the Gospel and seeing lives changed. We are a growing congregation and seeing visitors on a regular basis. Our worship is current and full of joy. Most of all, if you’re open to Him you will experience the presence of the living God when you come to church Sunday. In addition, you’ll be greeted warmly by authentic people who’s only hope is that you’ll have a positive experience at Northstar. I have attended and ministered at many, many churches throughout my career and I can say with absolute authority that you will find nothing phony or pushy at Northstar…just regular people…like you and me. This is what I have come to love about my church and what you will discover on Sunday. But don’t forget, we’re not consumers. You will be challenged to get involved and become part of what God is doing at Northstar.
So whether you’re a regular at Northstar or reading about us for the first time, my deepest and greatest hope is that you’ll catch the vision. That you’ll dream with me. And that you will be a part of laying our lives down for those God’s called us to reach, even if it takes patience and sacrifice along the way. I challenge you and me both to exchange consumerism for calling. To put the knowledge we’ve attained to work. To become a team bent on bringing anyone and everyone we meet into the Kingdom of God by all means possible.
It is this mission to which I am most committed and sold out.