In all honesty, it isn’t that the American church will ever truly die or cease to exist. It will always be there. But it is entirely possible that if these three critical issues aren’t addressed and dealt with, it will be a hollow shell that is spiritually listless.
If we think through Celebrity, Consumerism, and Competition, the antidote against all of these is sacrifice. Learning to lay down what builds us up and giving to others instead. Learning to serve rather than to be served. Looking for anonymity rather than celebrity. To build a culture of producers rather than of consumers. To live in a vibrant, sacrificial community, fighting a real enemy rather than competing against each other. It’s about sacrificing what we want for the glory of God and the advancement of his Kingdom, regardless of our advancement or desires. Clearly, this is what Paul was getting after in Philippians 2:6-11 when describing the attitude of Jesus as taking on the attitude of a servant, willing to sacrifice all acclaim and equality with God. It was a willingness to set aside and sacrifice celebrity, consumerism, and competition at the altar of the incarnation.
Fifty years ago, as these three subtle threads were being woven into the American church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., serving as a prophetic voice, said this: “If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”
We are now into the second decade of the 21st century, and we find ourselves still, for the most part, refusing to sacrifice what we want for what God is asking of us. Will we have the courage to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed? Will we do the things that cost us so his Kingdom may advance?