Consumerism in church is more dangerous than most of us know. Not only does it siphon off the missional focus which Christ gave us and which legitimizes our existence, it strips the church of its ability to produce Christlike disciples. According to Paul, the church grows as all of the members speak the truth in love. But, as the adage goes, “Truth hurts.” In a consumeristic milieu, believers who’ve heard painful truths can simply move on in search of another church where they will not be confronted. And they will be most certain to find a refuge filled with affirming voices reassuring them that painful truths are, in fact, false. They will find refuge because consumerism proliferates codependent churches that are neither truthful nor loving.
We grow when we learn to love. As the fittingly named group, Nazareth, sang, “Love hurts.” Love hurts because truth is a subset of love as are loyalty and patience. If you are in a church where you are lovingly being confronted over your faults and where you are encouraged to confront others, stay there. If you are in a “church” where you can surround yourself with superficial relationships and be told what you want to hear, run. You are dying. In case you don’t believe me, here are some words from Solomon the Wise:
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
One who is full loathes honey from the comb,
but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.
Like a bird that flees its nest
is anyone who flees from home.
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.
Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family,
and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away. (Prov. 27:6-9 NIV)
God has a vision of community where friends become family. For that to happen, friends must commit to each other in real love…the kind that hurts.
Life Teams are more than Bible classes or meetings. They are intentional friendships where each member gives all others the permission to wound them in love so that love might multiply as we all become more like Christ – the One who suffered most for love.