Body Issues: The Church in the Age of Consumerism
Key Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
There is a growing trend in the west of people called “nones.” These are people who have been involved in church for a number of years (most of them for 10-30 years), who simply stop coming to church.
These came to the fore the other day as I was in an interview with representatives of the Council of Higher Education; it was interesting to chat to one of the interviewers who is a Doctorate in Theology and an ex-student of BTC. In our converstations I asked which church he was involved in. His answer saddened me, He said, “you know I have become disillusioned with Church; which may be a product of all my studying.”
The funny thing is that it is not his “studying” that has chased him away from church, but the same thing that every “none” is a victim of; a consumer mindset. What do I mean by this? It is a mindset that has strangely slipped its way into the church over the last 20-30 years, which has at its core that church is there to meet my spiritual needs; It asks the questions what am I getting out of this experience? What is the Church doing for me?
The problem with this is that it puts the wrong person as the reason for the church, with this mindset the church was made for the person (or consumer), however, this simply is never the case; the church belongs to, and was created for, Christ. Soon as we lose sight of this we are in danger of losing it all. Strangely the same mindset about life, in general, has similar dangers… but that is a sermon for another day.
So this morning I want to talk about “Body issues: The Church in the Age of Consumerism.”
We will be looking at 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 where Paul address the fundamental reality of this thing we belong to called church. If you have your Bible please turn there. We will be looking into what Paul says the church actually is and I will hopefully, be redirecting our thought on the point of coming to church and being involved in church…
So let’s read:
Unity and Diversity in the Body
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
There are three main things I want to address that I see have become “Body issues” for the church. The first of these is that:
1. Body Issue 1: The Church is About WE Not ME
The main point made by Paul in this passage is how we belong to each other; the church does not exist to make me feel good, better etc. I exist in this church for the sake of others.
You are not the most important person in this church, I am not the most important person in this church, not even Pastor William is the most important person in this church. This church should be and hopefully always is about Jesus. And if it is about Jesus then it is about us working together to make sure that he is fully glorified in our midst.
This changes my approach about when something isn’t going how I expect it to go. Rather than complaining and then demanding change; if the church is truly about us and not about me, then I become the agent of change within the church.
We exist to bring glory to God in this area, we are Christ’s body called to collectively minister in the wide Varity of gifting’s and influence here that make us together more useful to the kingdom than we would be alone, are we all hands? No, says Paul! Are we all eyes? No, again! Are we all feet, mouths etc? No! Therefore, we need each other to be the body of Christ together.
The joy of getting older is the discovery that you are not as good at things as you thought you were when you were a teen. This realisation has forced me to recognise that I cannot do everything especially in the church. You can’t do everything either; therefore we need all of us pulling together to ensure that we are the body of Christ here in Wilro Park!
As Paul says we should all eagerly desire the gifts that we might build up the whole body and be one! The church is not about you; it is about us glorifying God!
The next body issues is…
2. Body Issue 2: The Church is About Giving Not Receiving
Each past of the church is indispensable to the other. A body issue that has crept into the modern church is that this is all for you. That we gather so that I can grow. That I can develop spiritually, that I can become a better person.
The desire to grow is not inherently wrong unless it becomes the only goal that we have. Again Paul’s illustration of a body works very well here. If you have a part of your body that is just there to grow for itself, we have a term for that: cancer. Cancer kills, and it is the same in the church. Members who are just there for themselves eventually endanger the whole body.
A body grows in unison and each part is dependent upon all others. The powerful thing is that when we come together for the sake of the body and work together for the common good we find ourselves growing the most.
The idea that church is for you and your own personal growth is not Christian at all, in fact it is rooted in an ancient heresy called Gnosticism.
This taught that we exist to better ourselves and grow our spiritual selves more and more so that we can transcend this physical realm.
I hear more and more of this coming through modern Christianity; when we speak of my personal journey, my spiritual growth etc.
Now again, I have to say these are not bad things, they are only bad when they become an end in themselves.
We are called to be less, to serve and to give, not to be served to be great and to receive.
You are here not for yourself, you are here for Him! And because of that, you are called to give of yourself, your time, treasure and talents to ensure that we all grow up to maturity in Christ.
We all have something to give!
This leads me to body issue 3…
3. Body Issue 3: The Church is a Body Not a Show
All this leads to the final realisation that this what we have here is not a show, it is not an experience, it is a living body.
Most people come to church like it is a movie or a show. We come in, take our seats, receive our “entertainment” pay our money and then get on with our life.
In fact, the church itself is kind of set out like a theatre; isn’t it?
The problem is that it was never meant to be that. The church was never for the few; the church is designed for all. So that we all would contribute so that we would all be dependent upon each other and then all be an integral part of what God is doing in the world.
Just having this realisation changes our thinking and changes our contribution. A person who is part of the body would say this is not working, or this is wrong and would then ask themselves how can I be a part of fixing this or making it better. A person who is part of a show, says that this isn’t working I’m paying you to do this; do this better or I will find a better show!
There is a subtle difference, however, profound in its application. Wilro Park, this body does not exist for your fulfilment. Rather, we exist for the glory of God.
So in light of this how do we change? How can I become more a part of this body?
Most of us come to church thinking what am I going to get out of this today? How am I going to grow? This is the thoughts of a spiritual consumer.
We need to be changing our thinking to how can I contribute, what does God want to do through me today.
1. Contribute Rather Than Consume
The interesting thing is (and is more a sermon for another day) that when we are all in this together seeking God and His directing and we are all being used together for God’s glory the Kingdom of God is in the midst of that!
God’s reign is Him corporately leading us to all be used for His glory!
Why are you here? Because God has something for you to contribute!
2. Serve Rather Than Be Served
You are called by God to be used by Him for His glory! That is why you were made! This week we have 17 of our young people all giving up on their holidays; going against the grain of culture which says your time is your time!
They are serving kids for a week. And you know what they will (because they are serving) grow more in this week than they have all year long. The funny thing is that when we start living for God and His glory and start serving for the sake of Him and not for what we can get out of it the more we start to grow!
This church exists so that you can serve others, not so that your spiritual needs can be served.
And finally, this is…
3. All for the Glory of God!
One of the greatest journeys that God has lead me on recently is that I do not exist for anything else but the glory of God!
This church, this body, exists only to bring God glory; so everything we do should reflect that reality!