Ministries that focus on manufacturing spiritual experiences, despite their laudable intentions, may actually be retarding spiritual growth by making people experience-dependent. Like caged animals, consumer Christians lose the ability to do what they were designed by God to do-have a vibrant self-generating relationship with Christ. Instead, they become dependent upon their zookeepers for life and nourishment. This captive/captor relationship is unlikely to change as long as both the church member and leader are satisfied with the arrangement. But is this what the Christian life is supposed to be? - Skye Jethani, excerpted from The Divine Commodity (Zondervan 2009).
I spent a while, longer than I care to remember, working at Outback Steakhouse. We had this slogan, "no rules, just right" that we were required to share with people when they mentioned all their special requests. Of course, that line is just a play on the old "customer is always right" model, in which customer service employees are required to relinquish all their personal rights in order to make demanding people like their establishment and want to come back.
Now, is the customer always right? Of course not. And "no rules, just right" is just as ludicrous. There are rules and, at some point, you're going to have to say "no" to one of those demands. Like when a guest wants double the chicken at no additional cost or eight slices of swiss on their burger or, my favorite, a birthday margarita instead of a birthday sundae.
It's not really about them. That's just good business.
And worship isn't really about us. Heard that from me before?
I say it a lot because we need to be reminded. I need to be reminded.
How often to we go to church expecting our desires to be met. We want the expected, the tasty, the extravagant. We want our itches to be scratched.
Since we live in a culture of consumerism, we think we deserve these things. After all, we're supporting this church with our money and our time and our effort. We're paying customers. And when we don't get what we want, we complain about it as if our medium-rare steaks came out well-done.
We probably even baptize our selfishness in righteous indignation, claiming that we have been left hungry and thirsty and that our needs aren't being met. It's not our fault. We're not getting what we paid for.
Actually, we're so parched because while the manna was being served, we were busy looking for our frito pie.
We can't be filled until we are empty. That sounds like foolishness in the world's economy, but that how it works. When we come to worship without a Christmas list, without sourness, without selfishness, God's greatest work, in us and in his kingdom, can be done.
The little itch we so desperately want the pastor, choir or band to scratch is nothing compared to the clogged arteries that lurk beneath the surface.
Our felt needs are usually not our greatest needs. We need to accept the meal God offers us.
It's not about us.