It isn’t all about Me!

kinnon —  November 20, 2007 — 23 Comments

TooManyBills.jpg

There has been a lot of consumerist Christian discussion in the blog world these past few weeks. (Interesting as Black Friday approaches for our cousins to the south.) Grace’s post is particularly worth reading (including the comments).

Dave Fitch’s post discussed the REVEAL reality of consumer culture in the North American church last week and got some push back both offline and online. Fitch points to this in the Hybels video that accompanies the book,

In the words of Bill Hybels (in the video), we need to provide coaching, “customized personal spiritual growth plans.” As “you go to a health club and you get a personal trainer to figure out how to care for your health we need to provide coaches for personal spiritual growth.” Here the language might have changed, but the strategy remains the same. We’ve seen the problem, let’s provide a program to meet the individual (customized) need. Here the Christian life is seen as a personal individualist pursuit for some goods that are frankly seen as self-beneficial. Spiritual growth has now become a goal in itself.

If Willow creek follows this course, I predict it will be spending more money on why the mature Christians are leaving their church in another ten years. Because Christian growth has everything to do with community. It cannot be achieved independently of the spiritual disciplines within community including, confession, truth speaking in love, worship, working our one’s salvation in fear and trembling and above all prayer. None of these practices can be personalized. [emphasis and paragraph break added]

North American Christianity is hardly about community. At it’s most perverse its about me living my “Best Life Now.” Whether the focus is my health, wealth & prosperity or my personal salvation, the NAChurch markets its goods and services to me, the almighty individual.

This was brought home to me on Sunday (attending the same church two weekends in a row) when we sang Above All with this chorus;

Crucified
Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

That’s right friends and neighbors! When Jesus died on the cross He was thinking about me above all! Me! Me! Me! Not us. Not the Kingdom – but me! What complete and utter nonsense. How can you build community in a culture that is focused on the individual? Well. Maybe there’s a conference or seminar you can go to, to find out.

Here’s what you get if you sign up for Willow Creek’s one-day seminar, REVEAL on the Road available for $79 for WCA members and $119 for non-members. Operators are standing by.

Led by Greg Hawkins, Executive Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, this information-packed gathering will help your church:
– Discover four descriptions that characterize individuals on the spiritual growth journey.
Learn more about what people are looking for and what helps them in their spiritual growth through insights about church activity and spiritual practices.
Explore best practices from some of the churches surveyed.
Process with tools provided to include REVEAL learnings in your church’s strategic planning process.

Perhaps WC could have called it the “We Screwed Up Royally When We Sold You All That Other Consumeristic Church Growth Crap and We Want to Apologize Tour“. And then offered to pay back all the money people had spent on previous WC conferences and seminars. Instead you get to find four descriptions that characterize individuals whilst learning what people are looking for, exploring best practices and processing with tools. (I’m hoping for another DeWalt Reciprocating Saw if I go. You can never have too many power tools.)

Let me quote Fitch again in his reaction to Willows desire to market more effective individualistic spiritual growth,

…this kind of spiritual formation occurs only in and through participation in Mission, the journeying together as a people infiltrating and witnessing to the life and ministry of Christ incarnationally in the world. “Personal spiritual growth plans” sounds way too individualized to avoid becoming another form of self-indulgence. True spiritual growth takes on the suffering and hurting and lostness of the world in the ministry of salvation. One cannot undergo such a journey if its goal is personal spiritual growth versus the Mission of God.
Eph 4 is a lesson on spiritual growth. It happens within the formation of the Body of Christ. Here the organic “Body” of Christ works for the edification of our spiritual growth “until we all grow to the full stature of Christ”(Eph 4:13 read the whole chapter). Spiritual growth cannot happen as a “self feeder,” it is the outworking of the Body of Christ as we participate in His Mission. The solution proposed here is disastrous for not only the spiritual growth of Willow creekers but for the furtherance of the Mission of Christ.

Friends, it’s not about me. And. It’s not about you. No matter what Christian bumper sticker theology you may have bought into. It is about us picking up our crosses and following Jesus into the world He’s called us to serve. And how do you market that?

UPDATE: Or, if you want to read what I see as a polar opposite take on what I’m saying here – read this. And let me quote:

Volunteers are volunteering because they get something in return. It may sound selfish, but it’s just the way we’re wired. Whether it be satisfaction, a free meal, kudos, recognition, promotion or just plain smiles, the concept of reciprocity is alive and well. Don’t forget this because when you know what the volunteer is looking for, you can better help them to obtain it. [emphasis added]

Since. After all. It’s all about me. I’d best stop here before I use a word that will get me in a lot of trouble with Imbi.

kinnon

Posts

A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

23 responses to It isn’t all about Me!

  1. Well, you’ve certainly have inspired some deep thoughts in me today… I definitely agree with you in that our culture encourages the “me” focus in our Christian walk, and I had often wondered after that verse in the song you quoted, “… and thought of me above all.” It always disturbed me because I, like you, thought, “but Christ died for us ALL!”
    The more I’ve thought about it the more frustrated I’ve been so I’m glad to see someone with the same question. I do think however, that the person who penned the words to the song, had his heart in the right place. Perhaps he should have thought a little deeper but then again, since God knows our hearts I’m determined I won’t looses anymore sleep over it for I know I’ve done or said things that didn’t paint the Gospel in the best light before either.
    Anyway, thanks for the hearty insight and thoughts!
    His,
    – Jo
    http://followtheroadlesstraveled.blogspot.com

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  2. You are thankful though, that He died on a cross for your sin, aren’t you?

    Amazing isn’t it? He died to forgive all those who would turn to Him for forgiveness. Very much for the individual, for each individual who believes in Him.

    So actually, if you have been forgiven, He was thinking of you when He died, because that was determined before the foundation of the world. You are very thankful for that are you not? As an individual. I know I am. Now, its all about what we do with our salvation, how do we reach out to others.
    How are we taking up our own cross, how are we suffering for the cause of Christ. How are we sharing the truth that can set people free like it has set us free, if indeed it has. Don’t you think?

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  3. My comment above was in response to the post and not to Jo’s comment

    Thanks

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  4. I spewed my Diet Mountain Dew when I read “We Screwed Up Royally When We Sold You All That Other Consumeristic Church Growth Crap and We Want to Apologize Tour”

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  5. NOT FAIR, other Brad … all I have on hand to spew is tapwater…

    p.s. Bill, nice fotos – how much for high resolution downloads, bud?

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  6. Great post, Bill – thanks.
    D

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  7. Great post, Bill – thanks.
    D

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  8. Yes! Fantastic post. How do you market the cross? You simply cannot. I too have been thinking a lot about all the ‘me’ focus (and the humanistic gospel – a gospel that seeks self-improvement, self-development, self-actualization. One that moves us from my salvation to my growth to my ministry to my destiny. Self, self, self, self… and more self). Ugh.

    In the upside-down, radical kingdom of God – you only truly live when you die, right?

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  9. Here’s another one I used to hear at a local megachurch: “We need the poor more than they need us.” Apparently because while helping the poor is great, the greatest (most important?) benefits are actually for ourselves, and how it makes us feel. That was the motivation. Makes me crazy.

    I also think the graphic is great. Where did you get all those pictures of George Lucas?
    🙂

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  10. A favorite George Lucas story from Marin County, where I live – and it actually ties in with this thread!

    A friend was at Borders and was next in line at the check-out counter. George Lucas was already going through check-out. My friend saw George turn to his child and say firmly, “Because I said ‘no’!”

    If famous people can do some ‘culture jamming’ on consumption, then I guess the rest of us can too.

    Or, would that be me following celebrities? Again. Which would be … consumerism … eh?

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  11. speaking of irony, what’s up with subscribing to AdBusters?

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  12. Jo,
    I have no doubt that Leblanc and Beloche had their hearts in the right place when they wrote the song. Unfortunately, they are as enmeshed in this Me-society as the rest of us – and it comes out in their song.

    Geoge,
    You appear to be bringing a strong western cultural filter to the reading of Scripture. I do not deny that God cares about each individual (down to the point of knowing the numbers of the hairs on our head) but believe that the primary focus of Scripture is the Kingdom of God – the “we” rather than the “me”.

    Brad,
    ae provides no insurance for those readers who choose to be eating and/or drinking whilst reading the words herein. 🙂

    Sargeant Brad of the Northwest Mounted,
    Larger versions of the MeMeMeMeMeMeMeMeMe graphic are available in signed and number quantities. Please send all your banking information to this address. One of my Nigerian friends should be sure to contact you, soonest.

    Dan,
    Thanks for being nice, twice.

    Sarah,
    As usual, you are so right!

    j a n,
    We could probably write a long book with all the dumb things we’ve heard from the respective mega-churches we’ve worked with. The one you share is a “beauty” though. George Lucas was not hurt in the making of the graphic – but he gets no royalties, either.

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  13. Brad,
    I am an AdBusters fan but am not sure what you are referencing. Or. Are you referring to the Wizard of Ads?

    Note, I wrote this response before your last two comments – and then forgot to do the stupid CAPTCHA thingy – so it didn’t post.

    Great Lucas story. Maybe he was ticked because his kid wanted to buy a book rather than a movie DVD.

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  14. heh-heh-heh… so did you just invent the “MeMe Meme”? say that three times in a row and it sounds like a kiddie toy! but register it quickly as your trademark MeMe Meme[tm] and think of all the royalities you could collect when royals speak of you!

    sorry, i was tooo obtooose about the AdBusters joke. i just found it ironic that an anti-consumerist mag is subscribable. good stuff in it, though. and in case you’re interested, rush right over to eBay where the AdBusters Foundation is in the process of auctioning a complete set of AdBusters mag, from 1st issue (1989) through most recent.

    and re: lucas … maybe in reality it was the reverse: kid wanted dvd, not book … either way, great story add-on!

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  15. Bill, you said “Geoge,
    You appear to be bringing a strong western cultural filter to the reading of Scripture. I do not deny that God cares about each individual (down to the point of knowing the numbers of the hairs on our head) but believe that the primary focus of Scripture is the Kingdom of God – the “we” rather than the “me”.

    How does it appear that I do that Bill – bring a strong western cultural filter to the reading of Scripture?

    When it comes to the Kingdom of God who is the “we”?

    I was reading this on your blog a while ago “On the evening of October the 7th, 1982 at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto at an event called Joy in the City, I came to a visceral understanding that Jesus was who He claimed to be – and – that He is my Saviour.”

    At that point in time it was about you wasn’t it? You understood that Jesus is exactly who He claims to be and that he is your Savior. I totally understand that, I came to the same understanding in 2001.

    I wonder if we would see that the same way. As your Savior what did He save you from?

    Here’s the thing, if He is your Savior and if He is my Savior, what is it that you would like to see happen in the lives of others, those who do not know Him as Savior?

    You want for them to come to know this Savior like you do don’t you? So they can come to have hope and joy like you do.

    See, I guess I’m not quite understanding exactly why you are all down on folks seeing Jesus as having died for them, because isn’t that exactly what he did for you and you realized that some 25 years ago when He became your Savior?

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  16. George,
    Let me first say that I’m glad you’ve had the opportunity to read a little more of my story. Hopefully you’ve found it interesting.

    I’m intrigued as to how you’ve come to this however,

    I guess I’m not quite understanding exactly why you are all down on folks seeing Jesus as having died for them.

    Jesus death and resurrection (in which I fully and completely believe) was for all – at least according to the scriptures. (I am not a universalist – I’m convinced that we choose to believe or not.)

    Western civilization has turned the locus of the faith into personal salvation – which makes complete sense in light of its own focus on the individual. I would suggest that Jesus focus was the Kingdom of God – one of the incredible by-products of that being the free offer of grace to those who choose to believe. (I am Arminian/Wesleyan in my understanding of prevenient grace and am really not interested in a Calvin/Arminius debate here – though some of my best friends are Calvinists and we have strong discussions face to face.) Voices as different as David Bosch and Abraham Kuyper have informed my understanding of the Kingdom of God – along with my own study of Jesus’ words to His disciples in Luke 10.

    But in the end, this post was a response to a consumerist mindset that sells the benefits of Christianity to potential “purchasers” (read it in light of a few earlier posts) – a mindset that says Christianity is all about its benefits to me. It’s not.

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  17. But again, when Jesus became your Savior 25 years ago, you received personal salvation. Isn’t that right? What did Christ save you from? What does Scripture say about that? It says a lot. Romans 6:23 comes to mind, “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

    So when Jesus Christ became your Savior He saved you from eternal separation from God in a place called hell (always interesting to me how some can so quickly say “what the hell” and “where the hell”) and gave you the free gift of eternal life that he accomplished for you on the cross. Very personal when you understood that. Isn’t that right?

    But I see what you are saying, you are looking at the “consumerist mindset” of so many in the church and are responding to that by suggesting that the lyrics of that song reflect that. “And thought of me Above all” you perceive that as being self centered. See I see it differently, I guess, I think its absolutely true and it is most amazing.

    Jesus Christ went to the cross to die for the sin of mankind. He did think of me and for some reason he chose to come into my life, convict me of my sin and cause me to be born again to a new and living hope. He gave me eternal life. I don’t know about you, but I totally relate to what Paul says when he says this, “15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1Timothy 1)

    That was very personal for Paul and it was very personal for me and if you received salvation it was very personal for you.

    So that brings us to the “mission” of the church. If that was true for Paul, and that was true for you and that was true for me, what is Jesus Christ calling us to do?

    He wants us, the “Church” to go out and make disciples. To tell the world about this awesome God who died for us. Jesus gave us a command before He returned to heaven, “46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,[f] beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ (Luke 24)

    Now, as I look around at the Church, I see that is not a message that one hears very much anymore. The proclamation of the need to repent in order to be right with God.

    You talk about the consumer mindest and I agree with you on that. Its all about what is in your heart, are you really saved. Those who are truly saved will have a conduct that will reflect that. There will be holiness and godly living and a growing in Christ likeness. Can you look at the last 25 years, can I look at the last 6 years and can we see how we have grown in Christ likeness. If we can its only because of His grace, if we can’t we need to make an assessment of our faith and ask ourselves some very serious questions. As we look at the world around us, our hearts should be broken for the lost, those who do not know God, who have no hope. We should be broken for those who reject Jesus Christ, knowing that their eternal destiny is hell itself. How might God use us to convince them of their need for Jesus Christ. Well, I get more convinced we got to tell them the truth. Always in love but we got to tell them the truth, its the truth that sets people free. I think the biggest reason people are not being set free is because the Church for the most part is not telling them the truth.

    I wonder if you might agree with my assessment.

    Is the “missional” church all about telling people the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

    “18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[g]”

    “36 And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

    (John 3)

    Is there place in the “missional” church for that kind of truth?

    Thanks for your time.

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  18. Sorry George – I’m not going to engage with you in the Truth Wars as I do know where this argument goes. If you want to grab a coffee at some point, as we live in the same city, I’d be more than happy to accommodate you. Thanks especially though, for the line, “if you received salvation.” An arresting line – at least for this discussion.

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  19. Ok let’s do that coffee. I’ll be in touch.

    It’s such a simple basic question though Bill. You testify that you received salvation 25 years ago. The “if” is that if that is true, (and I’m not doubting that, I’ll take your word for it) you know that was very personal. That’s my point, you have a problem, it seems, with “personal salvation” yet that is exactly what you received 25 years ago. Very personal

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  20. It’s very interesting to me Bill, I’ve been reading a fair bit lately from the emerging/missional folks about the “Kingdom of God” and this downplaying of “personal salvation.”

    I’ll admit, I ask the question “Are these people saved?” because of course salvation is personal, Jesus died for us as individuals and as we receive that truth, we come to understand that so very personally. What I now do with my personal salvation is the big question Bill.

    Christ’s work is done, he sat down at the right hand of the Father and now calls His Church to reach out in His name. He gave us His Spirit to do that. The Spirit within us will guide us into all truth and will give us hearts for the lost and the broken. His Spirit communicates to ours that we are His child and He says “Look at all those people, they don’t know Me, but you do, you go tell them about Me” That’s what he told his disciples before He left and that’s what He’s telling the Church today.

    So as I’m walking around downtown Toronto and I see all these lost and hurting people, I know God is calling me as a Christian who has received personal salvation, to reach out to them. He wants me to love them and help them, and tell them the truth about who He is and what He has done and how much He loves them and that they can come to know Him and come to receive that same Hope that I have and receive that same personal salvation.

    That’s the mission of the church. Its all about the truth, your Savior is the one who said that. People cannot come to know the truth if they don’t hear it. I love Romans 10 about that, “13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[f]
    14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[g]

    I’ll look forward to meeting you.

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  21. Bill:

    I found this quote by Michael Horton that you may enjoy:

    “When we try to fit God into our ‘life movie,’ the plot is all wrong-and not just wrong, but trivial. When we are pulled out of our own drama and cast as characters in his unfolding plot, we become part of the greatest story ever told. It is through God’s word of judgment (law) and salvation (gospel) that we are transferred from our own ‘life movie’ and inserted into the grand narrative that revolves around Jesus Christ.”

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  22. Thanks, Triple D. ‘Tis a great quote.

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  23. Thought you might like it. It was written in response to Joel Osteen.

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What do you think?