A Consumer Generation?

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

We have heard a lot about how our generation is a consumer generation more than ever before and we don’t know how to commit to something. In defense of our generation this is not always the case. I have seen many young people commit to things with their whole life… maybe it is because there is no cause or purpose that is worth giving their life to which causes the fickleness. But I will have to concede that in light of all the choices we have in this world that there is some truth to it.

This kind of mindset is slowly creeping into the Church of Jesus Christ.

Now in the church, we are seeing that it is all about choices and preferences. The temptation for many churches is to cave in to the currents of this society for fear that they will lose members to the church next door.

Something that I have been challenged by recently in the midst of all my travels around the globe is what kind of churches and Christians we are producing in the United States. I am constantly amazed to see churches around the world, especially in the persecuted countries where consumerism is not even an issue.

When I put this into context, one good example that comes to mind is our small group ministry.

There are some people who come out to our small group ministry – for whatever reason. But it is interesting that they do not attend our church on Sunday or some of our other gatherings. Now, I can look at this situation and say that it is because we live in a post-modern society where everything is fragmented; therefore people will go to wherever their needs are being met. I can even say that some of the para-churches are doing a better job than the local churches therefore people are picking and choosing where they can best grow spiritually.

Even if we try to be gracious in our assessment, the bottom line is there is something that is happening that is not consistent and a bit alarming.

First of all, in our context, HMCC believes church happens best in small groups. Therefore there is a strong emphasis on small groups in our church. But our church is not just made up of small groups. In fact, our church is so strongly driven on purpose that all our events, gatherings and planning are ALL connected. What I mean by that is this: our small groups are placed where they are because they are connected to our Sunday Celebration. And our Sunday Celebration is connected to our ACCESS gathering (our Friday gathering for students). And our ACCESS gatherings are connected to our larger events.

So, in the past, if a person did not agree with our philosophy of ministry or did not think we emphasized certain things enough (to their liking), they would leave our church to find another one that suits their fancy – which by the way is fine because I have been preaching that we need different types of churches for different types of people. There is no church that fits all.

But the inconsistency comes when people still come out to our small group ministry but do not agree with the direction, philosophy and vision of what we are doing. It would be very hard for me to believe that people would get on a train that is going to a place that they do not want to go, but they are willing to sit in the chair on the train because they like the people on the train. Hmm…

I am trying really hard to see how a person can have this kind of disjointed perspective.

Maybe we can look at it from another angle.

What if the church that they are attending on Sundays has a small group ministry that they are trying to build up? Now, for whatever reason, that person does not participate in their church’s small group but chooses to join ours. I am just wondering how that pastor or the leaders from that church would feel. If a church is serious about building up their small group ministry then I am guessing they would want all their members who are coming out to Sundays to join their small groups. No? Is it just me?

So back to another scenario (as you can tell, I am trying to cover all the bases). What if a person comes out to our small group ministry but not to our Sundays and other gatherings because they have a church that they like better than ours? To add to this scenario… their church does not have a small group ministry. They know being in community is important, therefore since their church does not have one, isn’t it better to be a part of one than not having anything at all?

Well, in this situation it goes back to the understanding of their view of church. If they believe in the Acts 2 passage where the early church met together in their homes and built community, shouldn’t they want that for their church? My challenge to them would be, “why not start something within the context of your church?” In this way, they are building up the local church.

Now, to go back to the start of this post and the topic of consumerism in the Church.

With all the reasons and scenarios given above, what would you say about a person who decides to be part of HMCC’s small group ministry when they have their own small group ministry in their church (the one that they are attending now)?

What would you say about a person who decides to be part of HMCC’s small group ministry but never gives back to the overall whole of the church because they do not attend Sundays and some of the other key gatherings?

This is when I am stuck because when I take this route in terms of logic, then it always comes back to the currents of this generation with too many choices and not committing to one thing. In fact, it is not surprising to see the divorce rate in our generation where choices are a premium. Why should I say committed to this one person when things are not working out or when things are tough? I have choices don’t I?

No wonder the Apostle Paul used the illustration of the Church to talk about the important aspects of marriage between a husband and a wife. He said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph 5:25-29).

That is a tall order. How did Christ love the Church? Or shall I ask, “How much did Christ love the Church?”

I am wondering if Christ is doing everything possible in our generation to see “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” It is my prayer that we will raise up a new generation of people that will not make everything about themselves. The only way is to address the selfishness and self-centered Christianity people have settled for in our generation. Let us not forget that it is not about us but about His glory and honor.

Déjà Vu a la Church’s Role

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint

When we first started the church, we had to grapple with the issue of the church’s and the para-church’s role on campus. Since we were a fully functioning church with a focus on the campus, we ran into some problems with the para-church. Maybe I should say it was more of a conflict of interest. Why? Because in order to be a fully functioning church that is focused on the campus, we could not just have Sunday Celebrations for students. We were committed to living out the 5 E’s (Exaltation, Evangelism, Edification, Education and Extension) in our context. Simply put, we needed to do small groups, discipleship, large group meetings, evangelism and a lot of the other things that the para-church was already doing in order for us to be the local church and to be faithful to our calling.

Some people had problems with this, or shall I say “us.” The logic for some people was expressed in a form of a question – “why can’t people do both?” I think the best way to answer this is to approach it from 3 different angles (past, present and future).

First of all, I will approach it from a historical perspective. When I think about the para-church movement on college campuses, we can point back to the start of universities here in the United States. There were various campus groups all throughout history that formed both informally and formally around a specific purpose. There were some that formed around the purpose of prayer. Some were focused more on missions and world evangelization. Regardless, they were a key part of the spiritual life on the campus. Then in the mid-20th century some of the more notable para-church groups developed in the midst of increased student population after WWII. As more students were coming back or going to college, many of the local churches were not ready or equipped to minister to the needs of the students. Therefore, this created a void in the hearts of the students as there was an increasing hunger for spiritual things.

Secondly, I want to look at this issue from the trends that I am seeing around the world today. For some reason God is bringing forth an awakening within the Church. The churches in this post-modern world are seeing things a bit differently than the churches of our parents’ generation. In our parents’ generation it was more about the “attraction” model (come to us), while in our generation it is more about the missional model (we will go to you). This has caused our generation to re-think about ecclesiology and what it means to be the Church. On one hand, we are seeing a lot more “grassroots” movements starting but also we are seeing more people putting an emphasis on the role of the local church.

With these two perspectives, we can conclude that God is “re-commissioning” the local church to play a role in engaging the college campuses. Even here at the University of Michigan campus, I am noticing two trends over the last 10 years. First, there have been more churches being planted right on campus to fully engage the students. I am also seeing this in our community of churches in Acts Ministries International – most of our churches are on or near a college campus. Also, some of the current local churches who have solely relied upon the para-churches to minister to their students are now starting up their own church college ministry.

So now, the question is – “what is the role of the college para-church in our generation?”

Lastly, I want to approach this issue of the church and the para-church’s role from the eternal perspective. At the end of the day, when everything is all said and done, whether a person comes to Christ through the para-church or the local church, does it really matter? As long as Christ is preached, we can all rejoice (Php 1:18). But the tension will always be there.

How does a person who is involved in both the para-church and the local church choose between events hosted by the para-church and the local church on the same day? Hmm… that is a quandary. If they choose the para-church, the community that they have in the local church might feel discouraged. If they choose the local church over the para-church, then the community that they have in the para-church might feel discouraged.

Is there any easy solution or answer?

Well, some people have no problem with living in the tension, which is fine – more power to them. But for the rest of us, it comes down to dealing with a tough decision, which many people have done. They either choose the local church and be fully “in” or they choose the para-church and then find a church that does not have a college ministry and is depending on a para-church to partner together with.

In the past 12 years of HMCC, we have had people make the hard choice and jump all in; and we have also had people that found another church.