I’m sure you’ve heard a variety of thoughts and opinions about what a church is or is not. Some refer to the church as a building or an event (e.g. worship, Bible study, fellowship). In this sense, it is a place you go to for a specific purpose. Others, more accurately, refer to the church as a family, community or a body of Christ followers (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:3-8, Acts 2:41-47). In this sense, it is a belonging and highly relational. In addition to that, there is a variety of expectations we have for the church. These expectations are often driven by a couple of perspectives. These perspectives typically fall into the category of commodity or community.
When we see the church as a commodity, it is a place to get something we want or to fulfill a perceived need. Please notice the focus is on self and the motive is to get something we desire. However, when this so-called place, a distorted notion of church, does not offer the goods and services we so desire, we move on to the next so-called place until we get what we want for as long as we want. All in all, when the church is a commodity, it is easy to criticize, quit and move on because the commodity is more important than our relationship with God and people. This cycle often continues until we get disgusted with the church, as we perceive it should be, because it doesn’t deliver for us and thus, we replace it with some other commodity that is more appealing.
I’ll give you some examples of expectations driven by the perspective that church is a commodity:
I moved from that church to this church because the music is much better.
I decided to go to another church because they have the women’s Bible studies that I prefer.
I like this church because it has a gymnasium.
I hope the church decides to do what is in my best interest or else.
This church is so cool because you’re in and out in an hour, plus you serve coffee.
You may have already noticed, but in any case, this attitude is parallel to our approach to shopping. You know, we go to certain stores because they offer the goods and services (commodities) we so desire. If we find a business that does it faster, better and cheaper for a product that is at least as good, we move to this perceived better store. Sure, I agree, finding the best commodities for the best price and service is the nature of business. However, it isn’t the nature of a family, community or body of Christ followers. This church IS NOT a business and it certainly isn’t a commodity. Could you imagine a child telling a parent that they’ve found a better family, so they’ll be moving on? The odd thing is, it isn’t surprising when our perspective falls into the category of looking at the family or church as a commodity.
In contrast, when we see the church as a community our expectations change because our perspective is vastly different. Instead of seeing the church as a commodity, a place where I can expect to get what I want, we see it as community, a people we love and serve. Not forgetting, it is a people to which we belong in the common bond of Christ. The focus turns away from self-centeredness with all the associated preferences and opinions and is directed toward Jesus and others. Instead of seeking self-gratification, we desire to glorify and honor God. Instead of expecting someone to serve us, we serve others. Instead of looking to receive, we see more value in giving. Instead of expecting someone to do it for us, we learn to do it and get others involved. Instead of going our way driven by preference/opinion/comfort, we fear God and respect the leaders appointed over us.
I’ll give you some examples of expectations driven by the perspective that church is a community: (notice the difference from the list above)
God led me to this church to use my gifts in ministry.
I pray for the church and the leaders regularly.
I love to worship GOD with my brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of the style of music and preaching.
I don’t want the church leaders to make decisions that are in my best interest but based on God’s will and what’s best for the church as a whole.
The tougher it gets around here, the more love and grace I’m compelled to pour out.
Your perspective of church likely falls into the category of commodity or community. But, let me remind you, even though there are a variety of thoughts and opinions about what a church is and should be, there is a biblical perspective of church. That biblical perspective is defined by terms consistent with family, community or a body of Christ followers. Even though some refer to the church as a building or an event (e.g. worship, Bible study, fellowship), a place you go, it is more accurately understood to be a family, community or a body of Christ followers (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:3-8, Acts 2:41-47). In this sense, we belong to one another and we operate as a family or loving community.
A Work in Progress,