A profit motive

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“Profit” is part of our economic system. Goods are produced that consumers want to buy, sold at a price that allows the producer to profit. The competition of the market ideally drives them to balance price and quality.  If a seller cuts quality to drive down price and what they make breaks or fails, the company suffers. If they price the product too high, even if it is built to amazing specifications, they lose market share, and probably some profit.  Greed and corruption skews the system from those ideals. Those who can capture a monopoly can offer their goods at unrealistic prices because there is no competition.  Take away the incentive of a profit and what often results is poor service and/or product.

So, why am I talking about markets and profits? Paul wrote about ‘preachers’ who corrupted the Gospel to make it more marketable! Of himself, he said, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” (2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV)

Contrary to much conventional wisdom, the Church is not an enterprise that is to make a profit. If the desire to be marketable replaces fidelity to mission and message, truth will be sacrificed.  Jesus’ invitation to follow Him involves sacrifice and devotion, choices we do not make easily given the cost to our comfort.  No wonder so many preachers in our time offer a diminished ‘gospel’ designed to make people feel good rather than drawing them to know the Living God.

Are you willing to think about a hard question?  Here it is.
Are you a consumer Christian?

Stephen Mattson writes that “a consumer-driven society can cause Christians to idolize perfectionism. When this happens, they expect flawless worship, sermons, pastors, staff, childcare, youth programs, mission trips, conferences, camps, vacation Bible schools, classes, and even relationships. Inevitably, when aspects of our Christian faith do cause disappointment (and they will), our constant cultural experience of being the consumer — on the receiving end of infinite commercials, advertising campaigns, and target-driven media that tells us the customer is always right — causes us to feel entitled to something better.  

So we respond by complaining, demanding change, boycotting, or even abandoning any part of Christianity’s existence that is letting us down. Before we know it we’ve left our small group, are constantly critiquing the church services, and eventually skipping out on church.” (https://sojonet/articles/be-christian-not-consumer)
Go back and read that paragraph again, please.

Thousands of churches have been born across American in the last 30 years that were created out of careful market studies, with programs and messages designed for the masses. Truth and orthodoxy is sold out in exchange for a McDonald’s™ version of “Christianity” that is cheap, easy to access, and that makes few demands of the people in the seats.

  • Want to worship at your convenience? We will offer a service to fit your schedule.
  • Don’t like songs that talk about sacrifice or commitment? We will sing about Jesus as your boyfriend in Heaven.
  • Troubled by mention of ‘sin’ or repentance? We will redefine the problem of humanity around psychological terms exclusively, assuring you of God’s understanding regardless of your choices.
  • We won’t ask you to enter into weakness to know His strength. We will tell you that God empowers you to be all that you want to be; a subtle shading of the truth that fits our ideals better.
  • Need to get your kids to football on Sunday morning? We will ignore your absence for the 10 weeks of the season pretending that sports offer the same kind of results as following Jesus.
  • Don’t want to give your money?  We will twist the message to make it appear that giving is a means of getting, as in, “Plant your seed in faith and God will make you rich in return.”

To demand that our practice of Christian faith meet our personal desire, that the pastor focus on our preferences, that the Church must be just as we want it to be or else, is to miss the point of being called into Christ’s Body. That is no excuse for a local church that offers shoddy worship services, poorly prepared sermons, and abysmal facilities.

Excellence is not the enemy.  Consumerism is!  Ministry of any kind is to flow out of a place of devotion to Him, for His glory, not to gain a larger ‘market share’ in our city.  The paradox of authentic Christianity is that it does benefit us.  When we put Jesus first, when we respond with faith to His invitation to Life, we gain immeasurable riches – love, hope, eternal life, purpose, meaning – to name just a few.  But those are peripheral to our love for Him, our devotion to Him, our service.

Before you rush off to your day, or conclude that Jerry is feeling cranky this morning, would you take some time with the Lord, asking Him to reveal where love for Self, where a desire to ‘profit,’ has overtaken pure devotion? Ponder Jesus’ invitation in this word from the Word. “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me. If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”  (Matthew 10:34-39, Message)

____________

True Intimacy

With all of my heart
I hunger for You
All I want and all I seek
Is true intimacy

With all of my heart
I hunger for You
All I want and all I seek
Is true intimacy with You 

Here I stand waiting Lord
Touch me now like never before
Let me change and be transformed
True intimacy is what I’m longing for

 Intimacy is the longing
Of my heart Lord
Of this heart

Eoghan Heaslip © 1999 Song Solutions Daybreak
CCLI License # 810055

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