Back in the 19th century, working conditions in American factories were horrible. Long hours, meager pay, and poor working conditions led to disgruntled laborers. Workers began organizing into collective units so they could gain some leverage against owners and management. They were still individual laborers, but they were loosely gathered together for a common purpose: better conditions and pay for all.
While labor unions serve a purpose in the business world, this type of thinking is detrimental to the body of Christ. Far too often I have heard churchgoers indicate they are individual believers first, and only attending a church for the time being. They find some value in the current church—perhaps it is the worship, or a specific ministry. However, at the end of the day they are individual contractors.
A La Carte Christianity
This mindset is seen in the epidemic known as church hopping. People are always on the lookout for what a church can offer them: types of ministries, size of the youth and children’s ministries, and style of music. If their current church does not meet their personal preference—often spiritualized by saying “their needs weren’t being met”—they will leave to find another church. One question always on their mind: What does this church provide?
I spoke to a family once who proudly recounted all the churches they were currently involved in: a church here for Sunday morning service, another one for a midweek Bible study, kids went to this church because it had the largest youth group, and they served in the children’s ministry of yet a fourth church. Approaching the body of Christ the same way you do a smorgasbord is not a blessing, but a mark of spiritual immaturity.
The Body of Christ
The individualistic mindset is pervasive throughout the American Christian church, highlighting a divide between American culture and what Christ has called His Bride to be. American culture places a priority on freedom and individuality. We are told from a young age to look out for ourselves and to build up our own name.
But Christ has called us to walk the narrow path. As Christians we are not to view ourselves as independent contractors who make our own choices; we are slaves to Christ and His righteousness. The church of Jesus Christ is to be a unified body, submitting to the One who saved and redeemed us. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, we should not be asking what a church can provide us, but rather we should ask how and where we can serve in the church. That way, we move away from an individual mindset towards a communal mindset of making His Name known.
Series on False Church Self-Identity:
- Church is Not a Social Club
- Church is Not a Labor Union
- Church is Not a Gas Station
- Church is Not a Volunteer Organization
- Church is Not a Walled Fortress
- Church is Not a Self-Help Group