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Guarding Doctrine From Consumerism

This article is part four of our five-part "Doctrinally Faithful" Text-Driven Podcast and article series throughout the month of October.

Why do you go to church? You would think answering this question would be easy. You would think there would be zero debate among churchgoers about the reason for their Sunday attendance at church. However, what I have found strange is that a simple question does not always give a simple answer. In many respects, there are as many answers to why a person goes to church as there are people in the church. I have probably heard many of them. Let’s see if I can come close to guessing your answer for why you go to church. Here are some of the answers that I hear regularly:

  • I go to church because I like the music.

  • I go to church because I like the way the sermon makes me feel.

  • I go to church because they accept me for who I am.

  • I go to church because they have a good program for my kids.

  • I go to church because I want to make good friends.

  • I go to church because I like being around people.

Did you notice a recurring theme in all those answers? The theme that prevails all of those answers is…”I, me, and my.” Truthfully, many people go to church for the simple answer of selfishness.

Certainly, no person who would give one of the above answers would ever classify themselves as selfish, but the reality is they go to church for themselves. They go to church for what they can get out of it. The sad reality of approaching church in this manner is that it reveals a deeper problem of one’s heart. A person’s heart that revolves around themselves – I, me, my – is a heart that has a doctrinal issue.

In this article, I want us to look at guarding doctrine from the sin of consumerism. In our first article about guarding doctrine, we saw the evil of pride. Consumerism is the child of pride. Pride births consumerism. When consumerism infiltrates doctrine, you will begin to veer away from biblical orthodoxy into heterodoxy. Therefore, in this article, I want to do three things by asking these questions: 1) What is consumerism? 2) What is the goal of doctrine? and 3) How to avoid a consumer mindset?

What is Consumerism?

In one way or another, we are all consumers. When we go to the grocery store, we are the consumers of that grocery store. When we go to the movies, we are the consumers of entertainment. We are conditioned to think in a consumer way. I guess you could define a consumer as one who receives. At the grocery store, we go to receive food. At the movies, we go to receive entertainment.

Not only does consumer behavior deal with receiving, but a consumer is the one who dictates the items they want and does not want to receive. Let me discuss free market economics with you for just a moment. In a free market system, the consumer decides what products are of value and what products need to be discontinued. For instance, let's say you go to a restaurant and the service is bad. The food is cold. The waitress is unattentive. The overall atmosphere of the restaurant was uninviting. Let’s also say that this restaurant ends up receiving a similar reputation from all the people who try to go there for dinner. Because of the reputation, the owner of the restaurant has lost a lot of money. At this moment, the owner has a decision to make. He can change or he can close the restaurant. The market will dictate what restaurants are good and which are bad by their revenue from the consumers. Bad restaurants either will have to change or close. Good restaurants will continue to do well as long as the consumer is happy.

Many people have the same idea about Christian doctrine. This concept is readily seen through the doctrine of the church (i.e. ecclesiology). People attending Sunday morning Worship Services believe themselves to be consumers. They look for a church that serves them the religious experience that fits their fleshly appetites. When a church begins to dwindle in size and effectiveness, the pastor will adjust the doctrine of the church so as to accommodate the preferences of the people. When this begins, the doctrine of the church has fallen victim to the mindset of consumerism. The attendees become merely “customers” and the church is responsible for offering the “product” that the people want.

What is the goal of doctrine?

You might be thinking, why is consumerism such a bad thing? Does not God want His church building full on Sunday? Should we not make the gospel more attractive to people so that they want to be in church? Do we not want more people in the church and not less people?

All of those questions, I am sure, are well intended. We have to consider another question before we can even begin to answer those questions. The question that we need to answer first is, what is the goal of doctrine? We touched briefly on this topic in an earlier article dealing with the question, what is doctrine?

When we think about the question, what is the goal doctrine, we are thinking about the end product. We are really asking a teleological question. Telos is a term that speaks about the purpose of an object. Why does doctrine exist? What is the end goal of doctrine?

The end goal of doctrine is the glory of God. Doctrine is the study and teaching of God as He is known in Scripture. To help us think about the glory of God, I want us to consider the brilliance of a diamond. There is a jewelry company named Roberto Coin. They have perfected the mining of diamonds to such an extent that their diamonds are more brilliant in color than any other. As my mom would say, “They sparkle more than the rest.” What is amazing about Roberto Coin’s diamonds is that they shine spectacularly no matter what angle you hold them. Now, what is true about a Roberto Coin diamond is also true about God. No matter what doctrine you are looking at God through, you will find Him to be more splendid and radiant. His glory shines forth throughout every doctrine. As we study the nature and character of God, we are escorted into worship by the Spirit.

The goal of doctrine is the glorious worship of God.

The goal of doctrine is the glorious worship of God. When consumerism infiltrates doctrine, the goal no longer is about God it is about man. With consumerism, we are no longer captivated by God’s glory. With consumerism, we are captivated by man’s glory. We alter the doctrine to be more palatable for man’s desires. The moment we alter doctrine to fit man’s agenda is the moment we have left orthodoxy and stepped into heresy. Therefore, we have to be on guard against the sin of consumerism.

How do we avoid a consumer mindset?

We have one final question that we need to consider. That question is, how do we avoid a consumer mindset? At the heart of the consumer mindset is pride. The focus of consumerism is self. To operate from a consumer mindset means that you have an inflated view of yourself. Therefore, to avoid this mindset we have to develop a healthy and biblical fear of the Lord.

A good resource to consider working through is a book by Edward T. Welch entitled When People Are Big and God Is Small (find here). This short, helpful book appropriately helps to identify where we have a big view of ourselves and a little view of God.

Another helpful resource to read is Andrew Murray’s book, Abide in Christ (find here). Murray provides a clear exposition of John 15. He explains how important it is for Christians to recognize their dependence upon God.

A final helpful perspective for avoiding a consumer mindset is to have a strong understanding of Creation. Genesis 1-2 and Colossians 1:15-21 provide a very good portrait for who is at the center of everything. A consumer mindset places man at the center of the universe. All things revolve around man; however, a biblical worldview is the exact opposite. The world is held together by God and not man. Therefore, having a biblical view of Creation will provide you with the truth that places God at the center of everything.

The impact that consumerism has on doctrine is devastating. Consumerism exchanges the glory of God for the glory of man. Consumerism distorts biblical worship into idolatry of self.

In conclusion, we have to be on guard against consumerism. The impact that consumerism has on doctrine is devastating. Consumerism exchanges the glory of God for the glory of man. Consumerism distorts biblical worship into idolatry of self. As text-driven Christians, we have to allow the text to guide our doctrine. We have to say, “no” to self and yes to God’s Word and God’s way.

To learn more in this series entitled "Doctrinally Faithful," listen to the Text-Driven Podcast at


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