We’ve all seen them roaming the halls of our church building. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’ve been one myself at times. These people are searching for an experience that will elevate them to the highest spiritual heights. They are seeking great teaching, excellent music, or an entertaining program. They want their every need to be met by their local church, or else they’ll move on to greener pastures elsewhere. These people are consumer Christians.
Now, it is important to note that we all begin as consumer Christians. When we first come to Christ we need to be fed the “baby food” of Christian truth as we mature into adulthood. After coming to Christ as a freshman at Ohio University, I too needed help getting grounded in the faith and being developed as a follower of Jesus. However, we cannot stop there!
The author of Hebrews rebuked his audience of this very thing:
Hebrews 5:11–14 (ESV; emphasis added) About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Consumer Christianity is the very thing the author is chastising his readers over in this passage. These believers had failed to mature and had remained infants in the faith. At this point they should have been teachers, but they continued to consume instead. This is consumer Christianity — always seeking to receive and failing to be poured out.
I once heard of a pastor being asked by someone in his congregation what their men’s group ought to study next. The pastor responded by asking, “What did you just finish?” He said, “The book of James.” The pastor replied, “Have you been able to apply everything you learned in James?” The man said, “No, but we have finished the study.” The pastor said, somewhat sarcastically, “Perhaps you shouldn’t study anything else until you actually apply everything that you have already learned.”
That’s a biting criticism, and it hurts precisely because we know it’s true for many of us! How many of the people wandering the halls of our building on a Sunday morning have taken in far more knowledge than they’ve actually been able to apply? How many people are going from class to class and sermon to sermon gathering information that isn’t leading to transformation? “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.”
Unfortunately, this attitude of consumerism derails the efforts of a disciple maker. Because the reality is that all disciples of Jesus are called to be disciple makers, consumerism is keeping many from being obedient to Christ’s call on their lives. They are remaining infants in the faith, continuing to be fed by milk and failing to grow into mature, reproducing followers of Jesus.
Men and women, it’s time for us to grow up in Christ. It’s time to take the next step from consuming Bible teaching and worship music to being poured out, introducing others to Christ and building them up in the faith. We need to stop looking for our church to meet all of our needs and begin recognizing the fact that our church needs us to be contributors instead of consumers.
If we will be faithful to the call to make disciples of all nations, we cannot continue to drink spiritual milk. We must grow up and embrace the call to begin feeding others. Every disciple is called to be a disciple maker, not a consumer. Will you embrace that call today?
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