As a leader team, God has called us into a season where we focus on being fruitful. In an effort to help us grow in fruitfulness as a church, we are excited to present this series of blog posts.
In the ancient world of the Bible, there were few things that struck more fear into the hearts of people than a swarm of locusts. Listen to how the Old Testament prophet Joel describes this phenomenon:
Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? …What the devouring locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust has left, the young locust has eaten; and what the young locust has left, the destroying locust has eaten…
It has devastated my grapevine and splintered my fig tree. It has stripped off its bark and thrown it away; its branches have turned white…The fields are destroyed; the land grieves; indeed, the grain is destroyed; the new wine is dried up; and the fresh oil fails…wail, you vinedressers, over the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished. The grapevine is dried up, and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the date palm, and the apple—all the trees of the orchard—have withered.
Indeed, human joy has dried up. (Joel 1:2-12)
Wow. I know what you’re thinking—I hate bugs too. But a locust swarm is no ordinary pile of bugs, it’s a catastrophic event that can wipe out an entire region’s supply of food. Even to this day, certain parts of the world experience these devouring hordes.
Consumerism in the church is a real problem. People expect the church to be like a business that provides religious goods and services instead of being like a family where people are invited into relationship. They expect the church to serve their wants and needs instead of using their gifts to serve others. And if enough consumers show up, they can have devastating effects upon the church, like a swarm of locusts. Listen, I know that we all need to be fed God’s Word, and to receive love and care from others. The problem isn’t that we consume, it's when we only consume and never contribute. In my time in ministry, I have seen church staff, pastors, and high-engagement volunteers deeply hurt because the demands placed on them were more than they could have ever met.
It’s Not Just the Church
While church consumerism is definitely a problem, the problem extends much further. Billboards, magazine ads, sponsored posts, and commercials are literally everywhere we look, each of them telling us how great our lives would be if we would just spend our money on their product. A 2017 report showed that Americans now owe more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. Consumerism is the very air that we breath, not only as Americans, but (largely at Sound City Bible Church) in the north Puget Sound suburbs.
Not only is consumerism everywhere, it’s harmful, both to us and to those we consume from. Even non-Christian sources are readily acknowledging that consumerism has become a real problem. The truth is that there is no true happiness, contentment, or joy that comes from consuming more. “The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile.” (Eccl. 5:10)
Are You Bummed Out Yet?
The good news is that as Christians, we are freed from the trap of consumerism. Jesus himself died and rose again to forgive us of our selfishness, our taking, and our lack of gratefulness. The good news of the gospel is that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Because Jesus gave his life to serve us, we are now free to respond in service to him and to others! Because of what Jesus has done, Christians are called “to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Heb. 13:16)
If you’re a Christian, God has called you to bear fruit in many ways, but consumerism is a serious enemy of fruitfulness. So, as with all sins, you must seek to put consumerism to death by the power of the Spirit. And as you do, I am convinced that God will give you two things.
First, he will give you opportunities to do good for others. There are many people out there who need to be loved and served in specific ways that you have been gifted in. The more your heart becomes free from consumerism, the more joy you will find in being able to serve others.
Second, I am convinced that God will also take care of your needs. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus reminds us of this truth. “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matt. 6:31-33) Or, as King David reminds us near the end of his life, “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread. He is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing.” (Ps. 37:25-26)
My prayer for Sound City is that we would be disciples whose hearts are increasingly free of consumerism, and that we would be known for our genuine, loving service of those in need, so that we may bear much fruit for God’s kingdom!