As I was driving into the office today, I was reminded of a sermon illustration I heard in Bible college. I’m not sure why I was reminded of it, what triggered that particular memory. I just was. In the illustration, a man is walking past a demolition site where he sees workers tearing down a building. Interested, he calls the foreman over and asks if the men are skilled laborers. “No,” the foreman said. “They are just general workers. It takes skilled labor to build, but anyone can destroy.”
Yeah, that’s a little hokey. It comes pretty close to the category I facetiously call “preacher story”, the kind of “true” stories preachers tell in sermons that are way to pointed to possibly be true. If you need a more highbrow example of this same truth, though, I do have this quote:
Whether you take it from the sermon illustration or you take it from Maugham, the point stands: building is hard, requiring time and energy and skill, while destruction is easy. Anybody can indeed destroy, which is yet another reason why destruction is so terrible.
What occurred to me as I was driving, though, is that many people (myself included, at least at times) don’t really fit into either camp. They aren’t building and they aren’t destroying. They are just consuming. What further occurred to me as I was driving is that this seemingly middle option is no middle option at all. Consumption isn’t different from destruction. It is just a different form of destruction. After all, what do you have after you have consumed? Nothing but trash.
All things considered, this realization would have just been a neutral one, something interesting that crossed my mind. It became far less neutral, though, when I realized that consumption is what many people are doing with The Faith today. Many are consuming The Faith today, and thus destroying The Faith.
Can I give an example of that? Sure I can. How about the worship wars. My home church had a blended style of worship from the beginning; we sang hymns as well as choruses. So I was largely spared the worship wars. I didn’t know there was such a thing until I went to Bible college. Since then, I’ve seen them split congregations and turn brothers and sisters against each other. And what is at the heart of the worship wars? I’m not getting what I want or need or like. It’s consumption, the desire to consume, pure and simple.
As is always the case, though, when I point one finger at others I find three pointing back at me. Yes, I’ve been a consumer as well. I and many of my fellow ministers have been. Consumption is one reason ministers leave their congregations. It’s not the only possible reason, but it is a reason. I would guess it is a big one. The church isn’t big enough for them or growing fast enough for them. The church people aren’t doing enough for them. It can be worded in many ways (and sometimes it isn’t worded at all; sometimes the real reason is hidden and the move is blamed on God), but it still comes down to consumption.
Bills eventually come due, though. The piper always has to be paid. If we all keep consuming like this, there won’t be anything left. Hey, I think Paul said something like that:
I have bitten and devoured. I have consumed. I have left churches not because God told me to but because they weren’t doing enough for me. I repent of that now. I want to do different in the future. I want to be a skilled laborer. I want to build. I certainly don’t want to destroy, and I no longer want to simply consume (which is really the same thing).
And I’m looking for some people to join me in that.