They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
— Acts 2:42, 46-47a
As the church situated within a society of consumerism, the temptation is to make church into a consumer good. This is especially difficult given our current context in which online worship and a plethora of written resources are the ways in which we “do church.” It can feel like we’re consuming a worship service here, reading a prayer from there, and lose sight of what the church really is… what the church is meant to be.
Before you get too upset with me, know that it’s not inherently bad to consume things. I mean, you won’t go to hell for buying the new iPhone SE or taking that trip to a tropical location. The danger comes when we expect the same perfection from our ministries as we do from those products we consume. Be honest, how many of us have returned something or complained because our consumer good wasn’t up to snuff? And so when aspects of the church cause disappointment, our cultural experience causes us to feel entitled to something better. So what do we do? We complain or disappear all together. We go “church shopping,” to find a place that better fits our specific needs… as if church is about us.
But here’s the thing, the church is not something we consume. The church is something we are. Even in the midst of this pandemic uncertainty, when worship is in a video format and we don’t get to make those weekly connections, remember: the church is alive. The church is a living, breathing organism that moves, changes, and grows. And yes, sometimes there are growing pains. The church is a community made up of groups, families, and individuals, each with their own God-given gifts and passions — that includes each one of us. And as the church, we devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Day by day, as we spend time together, we eat our food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people (Acts 2:42, 46-47a).
To counter the consumerist view of church, we need to be contributors. We need to invest ourselves in this living organism by being in relationship with one another, by offering our gifts and talents for the sake of one another and ministry, and by realizing that church is not first and foremost about us. As we hunker down for Stay-At-Home orders and practice social distancing, may we remember that we are the church. We are called to be in relationship with one another and with God, even (and especially) during these uncertain times. May we recognize the ways in which we consume church and may we grow from these realizations.
We’re in this together, my beloved siblings in Christ. And together, we are the church.