Kingdom or Clique?

by A. Maeve McDonald

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said: “seek first the Kingdom of God.” Most Christians, being familiar with this well-known verse, would likely agree that investing in God’s Kingdom is an important aspect of Christian living. Indeed, many Christians invest their time and money in their local church, tithing their income, attending church services and events, participating in small groups, and serving in church ministries. But it’s useful to pause and ask, what did Jesus really mean when He told us to seek first His Kingdom? And if this means spending a whole lot of time at church, how much do our churches actually represent God’s Kingdom, anyway?

The problem is, nowadays, too many of our church communities are consumer-driven rather than servant-minded. In our commitment-phobic, consumeristic society, the problem of “convenience-store Christianity” in which our churches have become distributors of faith-based goods and services rather than manifestations of God’s Kingdom, is on the rise. In this context, the focus is on what the church can do for us (good kids’ programs, an accommodating facility, inspiring sermons, fun events, a social network), not what we can do for the church. When this happens, we’re not thinking so much about serving and glorifying God as we are about Him meeting our own needs and desires. And when a particular church doesn’t meet our expectations, we soon lose interest and go elsewhere.

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This is not to say there’s anything wrong with finding a church that’s a good fit for us. When my family searched for a church in our new town, we were blessed to find one with solid teaching, a strong sense of community, and a great kids’ ministry. As stewards of our childrens’ spiritual lives, we felt it was our responsibility to make these things a priority. But if our commitment-level to God’s Kingdom was contingent on these things being provided, we would have the wrong perspective.

The reality is, American Christians have it pretty good; in most parts of the country we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to churchgoing. Many of us get to cherry-pick from a list of great churches with bells & whistles to offer. As a result, we can take our blessings for granted: air-conditioned sanctuaries with comfortable seating; Bible studies with childcare; high-tech audiovisual presentations, etc. We can suffer from feelings of entitlement and be under the misconception that we deserve these things from our church. We can overlook the fact that Christians in other parts of the world risk their lives, and make enormous sacrifices, just to worship together secretly in dingy basements without any of the creature comforts we’ve come to expect.

And when we focus on what the church can do for us, we forget that, in fact, we are the Church

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Faith Actually: Kingdom or Clique?