Reason #1: To Consume
The first reason why one may decide to begin attending a church is to consume. To consume is simply, “to use up a resource.” For some elucidation, it must be stated that to consume is not exactly the first and initial reason why one may walk through church doors. There are a variety of reasons why someone may attend a church for the first -time, many of which have nothing to do with consuming (i.e., a church production or to appease family). However, the desire to consume is the first reason why many people choose to stay. Similar to Loder’s concept of “The Void,” this is a step where people begin to recognize that they need something that they do not have, so they consume of what it is that they do not have.
Many begin their church journey consuming a program of which they want their kids to be a part of. Some begin consuming church because it gains them favor and respect among others in their local communities to be seen in a local congregation, and some even consume church because as Dean states, it simply makes them feel good about themselves. Although not an exclusive list, all of the items above can be seen as products in our culture that are desired by everyone. We all want to be respected, we all want our kids to be a part of programs that will make them better young men and young women and we all certainly want to feel good about ourselves. These products of socialization alone can keep people in church for a long time without any hint of transformation ever taking place.
Consuming after Transformation
When one has an encounter with Christ and is transformed with a longing to know more about him, the desire to consume more of God is certainly a healthy desire that must be nourished. Beginning to attend a Bible teaching church is a great way for one to fill this hunger. If this hunger is authentic and sparked from a personal transformation, the desire to consume more of God’s word, God’s presence and God’s will, is a desire that will not go away, but rather fanned into flame by a congregation of others with a longing to consume more of God.
Reason #2: To Commit
A second step that many will take in their experiences attending a congregation is that they will make a decision to commit to a place of fellowship. This commitment includes deciding that this is the church that they will attend regularly and regularly always means different things to different people. Commitment often includes finding a way to serve or contribute to the place that they will attend. Many that make it to this phase in their journey through church life will even begin to give monetarily to the church on a “regular” (always subjective) basis.
Commitment through Socialization
A healthy dose of the philosophy of the American dream tells us that teamwork is a good thing. We also understand that if we consider ourselves to be a part of an organization and take a bit of pride in it, then we should find a way to contribute to that organization. Then if we can attach these concepts to the idea of “serving the Lord,” or “building the kingdom of God,” then we have just come up with a really noble way to be a part of something mutually beneficial while being considered as one who is “spiritual or religious.”
There is also another level of socialized commitment that socialization produces. As a young Brethren pastor, I was surprised to discover how many people there were that wanted me to be their pastor, but they did not really want to attend church themselves. It was as if they were often saying, “We don’t really want to attend church that often, but we are really glad that you are there.” It was also surprising how many people considered the church that I pastor to be their home church, but I would only see them 6-8 times a year attend a service. Their sporadic attendance is a strange level of “commitment,” that socialization can produce, but we must recognize that this level of commitment has nothing to do with transformation.
Commitment after Transformation
After one is transformed and begins to consume of the things of God, they will quickly (not gradually) desire to serve. When the presence of God is real in the heart of the believer, they will long for a way to worship God with their life. This longing goes far beyond a church congregation, but it undoubtedly includes the church congregation. This desire can be nurtured by others who are being transformed and are serving as well as those who have been socialized into serving. The transformed commitment level of church participation is one who is saying “I desire to love God with my life and I know that this is where I belong, so this is where I will serve.”
This blog post is part two of a three-part series based on a paper written for Russell Haitch’s Educating in the Spirit class during the fall of 2016. Part three will be published on Thursday, February 9.
Brody Rike is Pastor of West Alexandria Church of the Brethren in West Alexandria, Ohio, where he has served the last four years. Brody is a current MA student at Bethany Theological Seminary and holds a BA in Biblical Studies. At 36 years-old his ministry experience includes ministerial roles as a senior pastor and youth pastor with the Assemblies of God. Brody also has experience working in Christian education as a Bible Teacher, Athletic Director and Principal. He is happily married and a father of three, who remains active in his community, coaching varsity basketball and coordinating ministry programs in local public schools.
 “Consume – Definition of Consume in English | Oxford Dictionaries,” accessed November 28, 2016, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/consume.
 Loder, The Transforming Moment, 80–84.
 Dean, Almost Christian : What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, 14.
 Quote by Russell Haitch
Photo Credits: Idea Expo and Adam McLane