Thursday, April 2, 2009

Of Burger Kings and Bibles

I was struck today by what I read from an old seminary buddy's blog, where he offhandedly referred to "a Burger King mentality." Burger King, of course, famously markets itself as the home not only of the world's greatest "flame-broiled" (whatever that means) cheeseburger, but also as the place where you can "have it your way." This campaign is designed to appeal to consumers in two ways: 1) It's a dig at McDonald's where you can have whatever you want, as long as you like it how they fix it (which is a similar strategy to Henry Ford's "you can have any color you want, so long as it's black); and 2) to reassure the consumer that yes, you really are the King of the World, and we, your humble burger chefs, are here to cater to your slightest whims.

While as a strategy for selling burgers, it seems to working pretty well, I think that too often this attitude creeps into church, and is even encouraged by certain types of church leaders. We are told, constantly and in different forms that we need to "adapt" to changing tastes and times. And to a certain extent, I agree that effective ministry must include presenting eternal truths in a way that the people you are trying to reach can lay hold of, just as any good cross-cultural missionary would. But saying that we need to adapt our presentation of eternal truth to the culture we seek to reach is different than effectively telling people that the Church exists to fulfill all of the desires they have now. After all, isn't at least part of the point of believing in Jesus to experience full-orbed change in everything from my speech, to behavior, to my thinking and the desires of my heart? Thus, let me offer to my fellow evangelicals a short list of things to which you are not entitled as a believer in Jesus Christ.

You are not entitled to:
  1. Worship alongside and be in relationships with only those people you like and find it easy to love. If we are commanded to love even our enemies, isn't it just possible that Jesus also wants us to deeply love those we don't like in the Church too?
  2. Enjoy and find meaningful every song you sing alongside your brothers and sisters on Sunday morning.
  3. Sit on your butt waiting on the paid staff to do all the ministry of the church. You are a full-time minister of the gospel with the same responsibility before God to serve Him and your fellow believers as anyone the Church pays. Those people are simply there to equip you to be more effective in doing ministry, not to do it for you. See also Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.
  4. Spiritual transformation without effort, evangelism without fear, or discipleship without suffering. What is worth doing takes painful trial. What is worth having doesn't come easily. But Jesus and the gospel are worth any cost.
End of rant. I feel better now.

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