Since March, every church has been forced to pivot in every way imaginable. One of those ways is content delivery. Whether they’ve streamed services from a social media platform or loaded pre-recorded sermons to be viewed from the church website, adjustments have been made.
But there are adjustments on the other side of that screen—where the viewer sits—that have been dangerous ones. The one I have in mind is the slippery slope toward spiritual consumerism. Let me explain what I mean.
I recently had a phone conversation with an acquaintance who began talking about the sermons she was listening to or watching since her church stopped physically meeting in March. She began rattling off the names of celebrity preachers she was tuning into, rather than joining her church for corporate worship online.
Then, she followed that up by saying she was getting more “fed” by these preachers with a platform than she was by her own pastor—and that she has, for now, stopped tuning into her church services altogether. Anecdotally speaking, she’s not the only person who has adopted this mindset and practice.
There’s nothing wrong with listening to sermons of various pastors—but only as a supplement to the discipleship offered through one’s own church. The tendency to merely sit back and receive rather than invest in real relationships was already prevalent in our pre-COVID world. But this pandemic seems to have elevated the desire for non-committal consumption.
This consumeristic brand of Christianity is dangerous, for several reasons.
We were created for fellowship and service, not merely consumption.
Although church life is still virtual for many of us, our church family is comprised of real-life, actual people—our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church was given to us so that we may gather (physically or virtually) in response to Christ’s act of unity through the shedding of His blood.
The church wasn’t given to us so that we may merely soak it all in with no contributions of our own. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us, “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ … .”
When we’re only consuming, we’re not serving one another. And we’re certainly not building up our brothers and sisters in our local church. We need to hear the Word spoken—together, whether physically or virtually—so we may remind one another of truth, acting as mirrors.
We’re in a covenant with our church family.
If you’re a church member, you made a commitment to serve alongside your brothers and sisters as you grow in faith together.
It’s hard enough to grow together when discipleship groups might not be meeting and you’re not able to meet those few friends for coffee. It’s nearly impossible to grow together when you’re not even hearing the same sermon and digesting the same Scriptures together.
To forsake worshiping—even at home—with your church family is to, at best, short circuit the design of the church.
Your pastor deserves your devotion.
Week after week, month after month, pastors have worked hard to keep their churches relationally connected and spiritually engaged.
They had to pivot quickly in March—many of them delivering content and sermons in ways they never had before—because they’re committed to shepherding the hearts of people in their congregations.
Pastors need our encouragement. In a recent LifeWay Research survey, they indicated that one of their greatest concerns was pastoral care from a distance. Not only is it more crucial than ever in the life of the church to heed the leadership of your own pastor, but to provide feedback (a note of encouragement, a “thank you” note for leading in a time such as this).
Remember this: When you’re in the hospital, the celebrity pastor several states away isn’t going to be the one coming to visit you. When crisis strikes your family, that popular Christian podcaster won’t be the one rushing to your side to offer prayer and words of comfort.
Yes, the church is global. But we’re designed to worship locally. Our pastors, church leaders, and fellow church members are the ones who know you. The ones who love you.
If you have fallen away from your local faith family, tether yourself back to them. It’s often beneficial to listen to well-platformed preachers and teachers, but they’re not the shepherds caring for your soul.