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8 Dangers of ‘À la carte’ Christianity


Literally, “à la carte” means, “at or according to the menu”—and we’ve understood it to mean choosing what we want from a smorgasbord of options. I fear that description fits how many believers live out their Christianity, too: they pick what they want and leave the rest on the counter. Here are some dangers of that approach—dangers that might also signal if we’ve moved in this direction:

  1. Christianity becomes only an appendage to our lives—not the center of our lives. That’s inevitable when we’re the ones who pick and choose what we want. We do that because we’re still on the throne of our lives. It’s impossible to follow Jesus as Lord in an à la carte Christianity.
  2. We place ourselves and our wants above the Word of God. When we pick which ways we want to obey God, we’ll inevitably ignore some things the Bible demands—particularly, the things we don’t want to do.
  3. We give culture the authority to determine our beliefs. That’s what happens when we get to choose what we want—whatever is most popular in culture becomes the choice we make. Seldom (if ever) does this decision move us in the direction of the Scriptures.
  4. Church attendance becomes optional. On the Sundays we want to go—or, perhaps only when we don’t have something else to do—we go to church. On other Sundays, though, we choose something else.
  5. Church participation becomes a consumer activity. Like shoppers at a mall, we choose what we’ll participate in based on our wants. And, if one store doesn’t offer what we want, we keep shopping until we find the store that has it (if indeed there is one . . .).
  6. We miss things that we need for our spiritual walk. It’s easy to choose to do the things we like doing in our Christianity; what’s tough is choosing the things that most convict and challenge our souls. We usually need others to help us see the need to make these choices.
  7. We leave behind doctrines that should motivate us to do the Great Commission. Few of us would choose on our own to believe in the lostness of all human beings, the necessity of knowing Jesus to be saved, the substitutionary death of Jesus, and/or the reality of hell. It’s easier to ignore these beliefs than act on them.
  8. The world ignores us. And, that response shouldn’t surprise us. Why would the world ever take note of a Christianity that looks no different than they do? Non-believers simply aren’t looking for a faith that isn’t obviously and powerfully life-transforming.

How do we address this problem? Stay tuned for future posts.

This article originally appeared here.

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Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.