Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
We often treat shopping for a church like a Black Friday event. As we enter the doors, we drag in our shopping cart. We’ve got a game plan and a long laundry list: engaging worship in a musical style the suits us, a practical sermon message, warm coffee, comfortable seats, a safe environment that keeps our children entertained and friendly (but not too friendly) people, just to name a few. Each box must be checked off or we are on to our next stop.
Consumerism intrudes and skews our understanding of God’s purpose for the church in our everyday lives. The church can quickly become something we consume and easily dispose of when it fails to meet our long list of needs. We want the church to meet our needs, but at an acceptable cost. This mindset is not something new to our “me first” culture. In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, the Apostle Paul counters several faulty assumptions, temptations, and applications that come from a consumerist approach to church shopping.
Paul understood a slippery slope begins when one will only stay connected to a church as long as it meets a particular need at an acceptable cost. With this framework, the church is reduced to measurable economic and emotional exchange units. Slowly but surely, God’s purpose for the church is never enjoyed and the meaning of church becomes displaced. Falling short of engaging in the mission and ministry of a local church is falling into a dangerous consumerist exchange between us and the church we are attending.
Our ownership to the life of the church flows out of our understanding of His church. Finding a local church to attend is not the final destination, but instead, only the starting point in God’s plan for our lives. Paul uses three images to clarify our understanding of the church: (1) household of God (2) a gathering of the living God and (3) a pillar of the truth.
In a household resides a family. The local church becomes a new and better family for all who are a part of it. Paul is creating a new focus on the family that extends far beyond one’s nuclear relative. The church is God’s intentional intersection where we learn that our family is made up others who are not like us. Even though we are all different, unity is indeed possible and it centers on a faith relationship with Christ. God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11) and is drawing all types of people into a relationship with Him, which means every local expression will be filled with a wide variety of likes, dislikes, experiences, and personalities.
The local church is God’s way of providing for us a new laboratory for learning to love in a new way. Simply put, learning to live life together with others that are not like us, helps kill the sin in our everyday lives and helps us live out love to a world that is hurting and yearning for answers.
Christians must come together as a local expression of the church and offer a radically different alternative to the hatred and violence. One thing that should be undeniable is that Christ’s church should be known by their love. The early church realized that when Jew & Gentile, slave & free, men & women, and every ethnic group come together under Christ, it was very radical. It can be just as radical today. When you are part of a church, there is no “US” and “THEM,” only “US.”
Yet, it is not just enough for a group of diverse people to simply gather in a room or building together. Paul’s repetitive use of the term “household” (1 Timothy 3:4,5,12 and Ephesians 2:9) points us to the expectation that every person has a part to play in a household or a family. So when Paul is using the saying we are members of God’s household, he is saying, “God has a specific place for you to be investing in the life of your local church.” Each one of us gets to serve His church in some unique way.
At the core of every person is an inner thirst for his or her life to matter. We all want to contribute to something that outlasts us; something that changes the trajectory of someone’s life. God has given the local church as a place that will satisfy this longing.
Of course, this just doesn’t happen by itself. Instead, we have to actively move from a spectator to an investor. We can’t just be a renter; we must be an owner. Owners are in it for the long haul and think about the future often. How would you be described when it comes to your commitment to Christ and His church? Are you a serial church shopper that has resulted in you just being part of the audience or an owner of a new and better family known as the local church?
- How would you be described when it comes to your commitment to Christ and His church (owner/contributor or renter/critic)?
God, rather than be a consumer, I desire to be a contributor. I want my life to glorify You. I want to love those around me in such a way that it points them towards the hope that is only found in You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.