A radical shift has taken place within the church. Pressure is put on pastors and church leaders to make church about us. The focus is no longer God and how we fit into HIs story. The focus is us, and how God meets our needs.
One author puts it this way:
Throughout Western societies, and most especially in North America, there has occurred a fundamental shift in the understanding and practice of the Christian story. It is no longer about God and what God is about in the world; it is about how God serves and meets human needs and desires. It is about how the individual self can find its own purposes and fulfilment. More specifically, our churches have become spiritual food courts for the personal, private, inner needs of expressive individuals. (Al Roxburgh, The Sky is Falling)
This shows up in a number of ways within the church:
- Worship — “Contemporary worship is far more egocentric than theocentric. The aim is less to give glory to God than to satisfy the longings of the human heart. Even when we sing God’s praises, the focus is on fulfilling and satisfying the human desire for wholeness and serenity,” a motivation that is not wrong but “becomes questionable when it takes priority” (Bloesch, “Whatever Happened to God?”)
- The role of the pastor — “…the responsibility of seeking to be the Christian in the modern world is then transformed into a search for what Farley calls a “technology of practice,” for techniques with which to expand the Church and master the self that borrow mainly from business management and psychology. Thus it is that the pastor seeks to embody what modernity admires and to redefine what pastoral ministry now means in light of this culture’s two most admired types, the manager and the psychologist.” (David Wells, No Place for Truth)
- The sermon — “Evangelicals in America are creating a religion that tells them how to be happy, how to be financially secure, how to be successful, fulfilled and healthy. Evangelical Christianity in America has pushed missional values to the fringes and brought ‘the Good Life’ so close to the center that sermons themselves are calmly titled ‘How to Discover the Champion In You.’ To which everyone applauds.” (Michael Spencer)
What is needed? A Copernican Revolution of the Word that puts us in our place in orbit around God and His Word in our lives, our churches, and our preaching.
We don’t need a series of practical steps to follow. That comes later, if ever. What is needed first is repentance: pastors repenting for catering to and even sometimes encouraging an us-centered approach to ministry, and churches for expecting church to meet our needs.
The issue is idolatry. It’s not about us. One of the greatest needs of our day is for churches to make the shift to a God-centered, not an us-centered, view of ministry.