Bear with me, we’re getting to the end here. It’s been a long series of reflections on a book that has had a helpful impact in my life: Worship On Earth As It Is In Heaven by Rory Noland. Noland is an experienced pastor and worship leader, and he continually through this book encourages and challenges us all as worshipers on both a personal and corporate level. As the book comes closer to the end, he considers that one of the greatest threats to vibrant worship in our time is consumerism.
So where does this problem come from? Rory Noland suggests that “We live in a materialistic, consumer-driven society, constantly bombarded by ads imploring us to buy this or get that because it’ll makes us look sexier and feel younger…We’re not only led to believe that we can have whatever we want whenever we want but that we deserve it. Advertisers insist that you can not only “have it your way” but that “you deserve a break today”. It’s difficult to not have this kind of thinking come with us as we enter the doors of the church to worship. It’s very easy to think of ourselves and our own purposes and agenda when we come through the doors to worship. And I don’t think we do it intentionally. That’s the great deception. We don’t even give it a second thought. Consumerism has so permeated our hearts and minds that we don’t even consider a different way of thinking. But my hope is that we can be honest with ourselves, and perhaps do a little soul-searching: have we have become consumers of church?
The next step is to consider how we can transform this. First let’s see what God’s word has to say about it. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 immediately dispels our “rights” to having things our way.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.
“I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
Quite simply, we are instructed to put ourselves, and our “rights” aside. They should not be our first motivating factor. A follower of Christ is fundamentally not looking out for their own way, they are looking out for others first. This is very contrary to everything we’re fed by our culture. Not only do we not deserve our own way, but we actually take our consideration of that off of the table. Instead we are looking for the good of others.
Let’s look at Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
Submission is a bit of an abused word in our culture. We understand it with mostly negative connotations such as weakness, admission of defeat, or even that we are under the authority of someone else. This is fairly offensive when most of our time is spent perpetuating the illusion that we are in control of our own lives and destinies, and that we can do whatever we want. The Biblical truth is, that as followers of Christ, if we’re truthful about our commitment to him, and we are living that commitment with integrity, then we are going to be a submissive people.
I want to be clear, that the Bible doesn’t see submission in this negative sense. In fact, the Bible uses an even more distasteful term: slave. And this happens several times. Paul, Timothy, James, and Jude, in the beginning lines of their letters to the church all identify themselves as slaves of Christ (Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; Jude 1:1). Most translations soften the word to “servant”, but that is not what the original language or idea was. They identified themselves as slaves of Jesus Christ. In the time they were writing these early letters to the church, being a slave often could mean as we understand the word: a person’s rights are given over or sold to another, and the future life and destiny of that individual was now under the control of their master or owner. The thing is, the person’s vulnerability as a slave in that situation didn’t depend so much on the giving up of the rights, it depended on the prestige, character and position of the master. So it was possible to be free, poor and ultimately miserable and marginalized. But some people would dare to find a good master, who was rich and prosperous and had political power, and they would willingly choose to sell themselves into slavery. Slavery was potentially a smart career move and an increase in glory and honor for the slave. In some cases slaves became family and heirs, in charge of a great many things. This is how the early New Testament writers saw their relationship to Christ, that there was no greater glory than to set aside their rights, and be complete in their submission to Christ.
So let’s get practical, what does it actually look like to abandon our rights, and come to worship seeking the good of others out of submission to Christ? It might mean that you come a little early, and park down the street so others can get the prime parking spots. It might mean that coming early means you have more time to talk to people as they come in and welcome them, and minister to them before the worship service begins. It might mean that you come into the auditorium and let others have the best seats. It might mean that you sing and celebrate whatever the music, or sermon is, because it’s about being with God and His people, and not on whether or not you “like” it. It might mean you don’t rush away after the service before you’ve had a chance to pray with someone, or encourage someone. Our worship would be transformed in very significant ways if all of us did some of this. Prayerfully consider how you might abandon consumerism as you come to worship, and replace it with submission, and an ultimate concern for God’s glory.
We’re down to our final post from this book next time: Embracing Diversity
Pastor Lorn Gieck
Associate Pastor of Music & Arts