What’s worse: consumer Christianity or self-reliant Christianity?

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A friend of mine asked this question recently.

I think it’s a really good question to consider.   He later gave a bit more of an explanation about what he meant by self-reliant Christianity. He was describing those who become so buy in church life and ministry that they forget our ongoing dependence on Christ’s grace and power.

My answer to the question, especially given that definition is that both problems are equally pernicious and stem from the same root cause, so that I would argue that they are the same false gospels seen from different angles.  This is similar to how we might consider the problem of legalism and licence. Although the two look very different at first, with one being about trying your hardest to do what you can to please God and the other being about thinking you don’t need to bother, both betray a weak understanding of sin, grace and justification.  Both assume that sin isn’t that bad because you can either fix it yourself, or it doesn’t matter too much if you commit it.  Both have a weak view of grace because neither takes seriously the truth that God forgives completely and permanently. Both don’t get what justification is all about and so depend on self-righteousness.

In the same way, both consumer Christianity and self-reliant/busy Christianity betray a lack of trust and dependence upon the grace of God.  True Christianity means that we realise that we are sinners who must place ourselves completely into Christ’s hands and cling to him alone.  True Christianity is about being Christ and him being in us through the Holy Spirit.  It is therefore about a close, intimate relationship with the living God, about being God’s people, living in his presence, enjoying his blessing.

Both consumer Christianity and self-reliant Christianity replace that close and intimate relationship, that utter dependence upon Christ and God’s grace with an arms-length transactional relationship.  Whilst one category may encourage it’s adherents to be takers, they are both parts of the same problem.

In fact, consumer Christianity and the self-reliant/busy Christianity, Richard identifies need each other. Takers need givers and givers need takers.  A lot of churches function like that.  Instead of utter dependence on Christ, you have co-dependency.  The self-reliant ones may grumble and complain about the consumers but in fact, they need them and feed off of their dependence upon them.  Not only does the self-reliant, busy Christian fail to depend upon Christ themselves but they fail to point the consumer to Christ as well, drawing people to themselves. 

The consumer feeds off the service of the self-reliant Christian.  However, look at what the supposedly self-reliant one is doing. They are feeding off – or consuming – the need of the consumer Christian.

And if the self-reliant fails to offer the true Gospel to others because instead of drawing people to Christ, they draw them to themselves, the consumer is either too busy encouraging others to join in their consumer habits or desperately looking for others to meet their need that they too fail to point to Christ.

Both consumer and self-reliant Christian alike have their eyes fixed in the wrong place. They are looking everywhere, except to Christ.The solution for both consumer Christians and self-reliant Christians is the need to discover either for the first time or afresh the true grace of God in the Gospel.

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