2 Corinthians 8:5
and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
This is nothing new, but COVID has thrown fuel on our addiction to personal preferences. Before I go on, what I will describe as Netflix Church cuts both ways, including congregants as well as pastors….if I am coming across as a finger-pointer, please forgive me. We are all in this Pit of Preference together.
When I was a little kid our media entertainment was pretty much limited to what was on the three major networks plus PBS, and only at the exact time it was showing (VCRs came out a bit later, but not used that terribly often). We had to actually be home Thursday nights at 9pm to watch Cheers. The first remote control I ever saw was at my great-grandmother’s house. It was connected to the tv by a wire and it had 2 or 3 buttons: I think (not sure) that it had an on/off button, plus a volume up/down button and a channel up/down button. And my mind was blown at the technology.
Now we have thousands of channels and the instant ability to start, stop, pause, record and change the show, all while sitting on the couch eating Cheetos. And we still say “there’s nothing to watch.”
With infinite choices for food, exercise, entertainment etc, it is completely natural that we begin to live every other part of our lives with a Netflix-Mentality. When we come to church it will be an aggressive and overt battle to NOT see it as “entertainment” – we want to hear what we want, for how long we want, and leave feeling the way we want while not being “required” to do anything that we don’t want. This is the human condition which has been injected with beastly steroids over the past decade.
– How have you mentally “rated” the worship service based on your preferences?
– How has corporate worship been treated as convenient and/or inconvenient?
– Try to differentiate the difference between a worship essential vs. a preference.
– Why do you suppose we all have gotten comfortable with this mindset?
– What do you think the solution could be?
Alright church leaders, this is for us. It’s so easy to arrogantly sit on our high horses as we look down our noses at those that feel to us like consumers and critics. But how much are WE consumers and critics?
Pastor as Consumer: As broken people we pastors are powerfully drawn to “consume” the approval of others. It is most certainly a mixed bag (like it is with all of us) but it is so easy to come in on Sunday not just with an excitement and calling to open the Word of God to the Body, but also with an expectation that the Body will satisfy my craving for approval, respect and a feeling of accomplishment. As Timothy Keller has mentioned before when talking about the insecurity that comes from pride, we pastors are drawn to compliments like a shark is to chum (while criticism sends us to the depths).
Pastor as Critic: It is likewise so tempting (and easy) to paint people with a broad and judgemental brush as we make assumptions about why people do what they do. We can find ourselves internally criticizing people for not behaving the way we WANT them to behave (and, to be honest, sometimes the way Scripture has told us to behave).
With all of these in mind, from the viewpoint of the congregant and the pastor, how often do we internally give one another a low YELP review? How often do all of us complain because things aren’t personally pleasing?
The Gospel equips us to be fully secure in the value and identity that Christ has procured for us on the cross so that I don’t have to expect others to satisfy me. I am loved and adopted, which means I am equipped to hear compliments AND criticisms with a humble heart; and give (appropriate) compliments and criticisms that are truly for the growth of that person (and not simply to reduce my annoyance levels).
In order to grow in that direction (I intentionally didn’t say “get there” because we won’t in this lifetime) we need to 1) be secure in our value as God’s Children, and 2) be in actual, strong, loving relationships with one another, which will enable us to speak and listen because we will be (reasonably) sure that we are FOR one another, not trying to merely fix one another. And this needs to begin with church leaders.
So join me in this. Let’s prayerfully look at how a Netflix-Church mentality may have infiltrated our hearts. How do I treat others (worship, God, friends etc) from a “preference” point of view rather than from (like the Macedonians in 2Cor8) a “giving my very life” point of view?
Wow. I need even more of the Holy Spirit’s power than I imagined.
Wow. I HAVE more of the Holy Spirit’s power than I ever dreamed.