Gospel Consumers

Years ago, we attended Aldersgate United Methodist Church in College Station Texas. One Sunday, our pastor brought a mannequin to church and sat him on a pew, just to see if anyone would notice. Most of us didn’t. Then he preached a sermon on living together as a community. Pastor Terry Teykel knew how to make his sermons memorable.

That morning came to mind the other day when someone mentioned to my husband that he was tired of church being run like a business.

On some level I think churches should be run like businesses—well run businesses. But the assumption my husband’s friend seemed to be making is that business is cold and impersonal and all about consumerism, not about people. He therefore implied, or at least I inferred, that we have become consumers of the gospel and the pastor has become a supplier.

And if that is what church has become, then we have a problem.

If what was meant to be a loving and supportive family—as well as a center for teaching, training and encouragement—is operated as a business venture, then it fails miserably. No matter how many seats are filled and no matter how good and well intentioned the leadership, if the church doesn’t fulfill its intended purpose it is, at best, ineffective and, at worst, detrimental to our relationship with God.

Pastors, as undershepherds, in some ways become closely identified with the Good Shepherd in our minds. If our relationship with any of the ascension gifts is merely that of supplier and consumer, then our relationship with God takes on that same nuance. And that surely is not what Jesus died for.

See the heart of a true undershepherd:

For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2).