I like to read. Almost everything I read is non-fiction related to my interests in the Church, theology, education, leadership, and culture. I know I'm weird, and for many people that kind of reading wouldn't be recreation, it would be torture.
That being said, I want to tell you a little bit about a book I just finished. It is The Abundant Community; Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods by John McKnight and Peter Block. It was published in 2012 by Barrett-Koehler. McKnight and Block approach the idea of community from a completely secular point of view, but I found many of their ideas directly apply to the unique community of a local Christian congregation.
McKnight and Block talk a lot about a distinction between citizens and consumers. This quote sums up their point:
"A citizen is one who is a participant in a democracy, regardless of their legal status. It is one who chooses to create the life, the neighborhood, the world from their own gifts and the gifts of others. â€¦ A consumer is one who has surrendered to others the power to provide what is essential for a full satisfied life. â€¦ Consumerism is not about shopping, but about the transformation of citizens into consumers." (p. 7)
The question this raised in my mind is this: Do we have consumers or citizens (members) in the church? I think much of what McKnight and Block say about citizens in a community applies to members of a local church. Citizens participate in the life of the community in a positive way. Church members participate in the life of the congregation to spiritually invigorate themselves and others.
Consumers make church into a commodity, and the nature of a consumer, whether in a community or a church, always makes for a buyer's market. Receiving good customer service, not spiritual growth or meaningful service to Christ, is the driving force that draws a consumer to a church.
The good news is that Jesus died for both citizens and consumers. The good news is that God loves both citizens and consumers with an everlasting love. The good news is that both citizens and consumers are sinners who find forgiveness in the mercy of God shown to us in Jesus Christ.
God calls us all to repentance for our consumer attitudes because we are all consumers at heart, and we equally require God's grace to turn our hearts from preoccupation with our needs (wants). A member/citizen of a Church not only believes, he or she belongs. A Church is a Christian community and her member/citizens belong not merely to the organization, but to Christ and, through Christ, to each other.
I can hardly do McKnight and Block's book justice in these few words. I have not attempted to review their book, but to transpose a couple of their points to the lives of Christians in community. I invite your comments and thoughts; I also suggest you consider reading Abundant Community from your own perspective.
Pastor Dan Czaplewski