Consuming Church


We live in a Western consumeristic world.

This is something I’ve written about before, but it’s still true. And, what matters most isn’t to lament this, but rather to recognize it and “call it out” when we see it. Because, what can (and does) subtly happen is that this Western consumeristic world starts to infect and affect the church.

One way that often happens is through this idea of the church “providing religious experiences” for people. That the goal of coming to church is to have “an experience” in which people encounter God. And, on the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with this. Because, in many ways, that is what I hope happens during our weekend services.

But, when you peel back the layers, you can see how quickly that goes off course. Because, the church doesn’t exist so you can have “an experience.” Church isn’t about you in the first place, and it’s not about me either.

Church is about Jesus calling us to be faithful in His mission in the world.

But, it quickly slides into consumerism when we show up to “experience something” and then rate our experience based on what we were offered, rather than what we brought to it. We talk about what we receive, rather than what expectations and openness we brought with us.

I write all this because it is subtle and dangerous.

And, I know it’s me. I’m more likely to enjoy something that makes me feel good, rather than something that invites me into the hard process of being an apprentice of Jesus.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

Now, I’m not bemoaning the current state of Christianity. Instead, I’m bemoaning the state of my own soul. Because, I’m shaped by this culture, just like everyone else. And, because of this, I’m tempted to ask, “How was church this week?” – as if I’m somehow outside of it, divorced from it and a spectator, rather than part of it.

Instead, I should be asking different questions, such as:

. “How was I a part of church?” 
. “Did I give, participate and open myself up to being found by Jesus?”

Different questions, but question that I think matter.

Because, it’s so easy to seek a little religious, uplifting experiencing, rather than choose the long road, pursuing holiness in an apprenticeship to Jesus.

So, this post isn’t to “call out” anything else other than to remind us that the temptation to consume church is always there, and it needs to be recognized and, most of all, resisted.

Worship Everybody Does It


Here is the truth…

Everybody worships something. Everybody moves toward something. Everybody has a goal that, for them, is ultimate and to which they are subservient. Even people who say, “No, I don’t worship. I’m totally independent.” In that case, what you worship is your independence. This is just the reality of life.

David Foster Wallace makes a startling claim about this in his famous commencement address at Kenyon College. And he says this not as a Christian, but as an observer of humanity…

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

That’s just what I said, but now read what Wallace continues to say…

“An outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start to show, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. … Worship power and you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect – being seen as smart – and you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

I couldn’t agree more. If you worship anything other than God, ultimately your desires and wants will eat you alive.

Wallace ends with this…

“The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious.”

And, this is the difficulty.

We all know living after these things aren’t healthy, but we still do it. We live a life that is unexamined and suffer the consequences. We slip into this kind of worship without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

So, what is the solution? Well, it’s simple…

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Guard your heart, examine your heart, challenge what you worship and put your trust in God. Because our desires lead us.

Where is your heart leading? Set it on God and follow that. And, most of all, guard your heart against these other desires that slip in silently and set you up for difficulty. Don’t let your heart go unexamined and unguarded because that will never lead you into life.

So, what do we do? We sit and really reflect on the question, what do I worship? Don’t answer it too quickly, but do answer it. Because your life, and experiencing life, might just depend on it.

Finding God on Your iPod

Well on Sunday we are launching a brand new series here at church: Finding God on your iPod. We are going to be looking at songs that reveal truth, and have impacted my relationship with God.

Some of the songs you might know, some you might not. But the beautiful thing is that God is all around us and ready to speak to us through so many ways. And we hope to find one way that God speaks to us on Sunday is through music.

I’ve found that at very specific and important times in my life God’s spoken through a song.

So we want to explore some of those over the summer.

But before we get there, what about you? What songs has God used to speak to you? How did he reveal his truth or a thought to you? I’d love to hear what songs God has spoke to you through, and who knows maybe I’ll use one!

god on ipod series

Worship…It’ll eat you alive

I read a quote recently that really got me thinking. It’s from David Foster Wallace, the novelist and writer, and he said this:

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship…The compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
And I think he’s really right especially the last line. That anything else you worship will eat you alive.
The biblical word for this is idolatry. That’s when you place things before God, or in God’s spot. And while we do this sometimes either out of naivety, rebellion, or from a mistake, it never ends up well.
Think about it. Greed is essentially the idolatry of money – and greed will eat you alive. Pride is the idolatry of the self – and pride will eat you alive and any relationship you’re in. Position and recognition is the idolatry of power – and it too will eat you alive if you worship it.
Because the truth is what you worship is what will own and direct  you. And with every other single thing we worship other than God, leads us to a place of hurt, difficulty, and pain. Or in the Biblical language – destruction. Or in David Foster Wallace’s language you’ll be “eaten alive”. Chasing after money, pride, power, position, or anything other than God never brings health and freedom.
The trouble with worship and idolatry is that we often don’t realize what we worship until it’s too late. Until we’ve been “eaten alive” – a relationship fails, our identity cracks, or we hit rock bottom. The point is that I think David Foster Wallace is right – everybody worships. The question is what are you worshipping? Is it bringing you health, life, and freedom? Or is it slowly eating away at you? At your hope, meaning, and purpose?

Advent Reflection: Worshipping Jesus during Christmas

1371540_95553958On Sunday we looked at one last response to Jesus. We’ve already looked at how we wait for Jesus’ arrival, we are to respond with willingness when he shows up, and yesterday we saw how we are to respond with worship.

We looked at the story of the wisemen or the magi. In it they do something remarkable. They actually fall at Jesus’ feet and worship him when they find him. This is quite amazing because these are professional men, these are wealthy men, these are probably powerful men. And their response to a little boy in a hovel of a town, in the shadow of Herod’s third largest temple, fall on their face in adoration.

This is the response that we are to have towards Jesus Christ when we enter into his presence. We are to adore him. The magi do not fall at the feet of Jesus because of what he has done for them. They do not fall at his feet out of gratitude, because Jesus hasn’t done anything for them at all. They fall at his feet because of who he is. And this is a central part of worship. We need to worship Jesus not just for the good things he does for us, but we need to worship him for who he is.

Because he is King.

Because he is Good.

Because he is the Messiah.

Because he is God.

So we landed on one question from this story. When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen did? When was the last time you entered into Jesus’ presence, fell at his feet and really worshipped him?

I think this is an important question because Christmas is to be about Jesus. And if we want to put Jesus at the centre it means to focus on him and worship him. I know when I asked that question, that for me, it’s been too long since I’ve just worshipped Jesus.

So we left with this challenge for this week: Christmas will soon be here, so find time to worship Jesus fully this week. Carve out time to worship him. For you that might be painting, walking, praying, singing, dancing, sitting silently, writing or whatever else. The point isn’t how you worship Jesus, but an invitation to actually do it. So Christmas is here in a few days so why not take up that challenge. If we truly want to bring Christ back into Christmas I think it begins with bringing him back in our lives with a focus on worshipping and adoring him. Because he does deserve it.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to worship Jesus fully

Take Aways…

  • Advent should be a season of worship
  • They “Fell down before him and worshipped him”
  • To be prostrate is to be in a position of submission
  • The magi fall at Jesus’ feet out of adoration
  • Adoration differs from other forms of worship such as supplication (asking for things), confession of sins, and offering thanks, inasmuch as it consists in devout recognition of God’s transcendent excellence – Catholic Encylcopedia
  • We need to worship Jesus fully
  • Our response to Jesus in this season, needs to be to worship him fully.
  • When was the last time you came into Jesus’ presence and fell at his feet like the Wisemen?

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Think through this advent season and simply reflect on where your focus has been. Has it been on Jesus or other things? How can you shift your focus to Jesus this week? When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen? How might you worship Jesus fully this week? What activities or practices draw you closer to him? Set aside some time this week to spend with Jesus.

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about the real reason about Christmas – how it’s about Jesus. Talk to them that its about worshipping him. Ask them how they might want to do that. Maybe they want to dance, maybe they want to give some of their toys to others, maybe they want to draw a picture and talk with Jesus. Whatever it may be why not actually do it with them.

Challenge for this Week Worship: Jesus fully this week

Advent Reflection: Where’s Your Focus?

1373026_24335944On Sunday we are looking at one last response to Jesus in this season of Advent. We’ve already looked at waiting, and being willing to follow and on Sunday we are looking at worshipping. We will be looking at the story of the three Wisemen and their response to Jesus. We’ll be covering a lot of territory including a fight I had with sequined shorts trainer Richard Simmons…not once but twice, the meaning of adoration, and what Christmas is all about. But this post isn’t about Richard Simmons but about Jesus.

So the point is this: Christmas should be about Jesus, so why not make it about Jesus? Why wait till we talk about worship on Sunday, why not find ways to worship Jesus today? Why not make him your focus right here and right now?

If we truly want to bring Jesus back into Christmas I think it begins by bringing him back into our lives. The wisemen’s first reaction and response to Jesus is to fall at his feet in worship, and I think we can learn a lot from that. I think what we can learn is to follow in their example. I know, for me personally, I think about Jesus a lot, I talk to him a lot, I spend time learning about him a lot, but I’m not sure I could say I worship him a lot.

For me this realization isn’t something to feel guilty about, it’s simply something to change. So that’s what I’m going to try to do today – I’m going to try to worship Jesus as fully as I can.

What about you? How can you focus on Jesus and worship him today?

Its a good question to think about, but it’s an even better question to act on.


Thoughts on the Church after Coldplay

Last night I went to see a concert with my wife, mom, and my brother in law and sister in law. The concert was pretty amazing. Here’s a clip.

It got me to thinking though. In the midst of all those people I was easily caught up in the whole thing, I wanted to dance, I wanted to shout, wave my hands (which had cool blinking lights on a wrist band you see in the video), and sing along.

And the concert was amazing but it also reminded me that gathering as God’s church matters.

I know it’s odd that a Coldplay concert makes me think of church, but this is the life of a pastor. Everything makes you think of God’s people and sharing grace.

What I thought about was this: gathering together, whether with thousands, or two or three, matters. When we as God’s people, his church, gather together for a common purpose, whether to worship, to serve, or then to go out and bless the world, something special happens. In Hebrews we are told to not give up gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). Because it is together in the presence of one another that transformation can happen, we can get swept into something greater than ourselves, we are reminded that we are in this together.

An old proverb says this, “The individual Christian, is no Christian.” You can’t follow Christ alone; it’s no solo journey. This is what that concert reminded me of. That gathering together for a common purpose matters. So who are you gathering with to worship God? Are you being intentional about joining something bigger than yourself? Who are you partnering with to reach your neighborhood?

We aren’t meant to do it alone. So gather with some friends this week to serve, to celebrate, dance, reach your neighbours, give grace.

And in case you are wondering – yes those bracelets are amazing…and no, unfortunately we won’t have them on Sunday 😉