There’s always a means to an end. For instance, our careers (or vocations) serve as a means to an end. But, to what end do they serve? The end varies depending on the person. For some, that end is money or prestige; for others it can be satisfaction, giftedness, or life’s purpose. When it comes to Jesus, his Word, or his church, have we ever thought about what the end goal is? In other words, what is the ultimate end goal of the means of Jesus being our king, us reading his Word, and us being united with his bride, the church? In all honesty there are two types believers that have the same means, but differing end goals.
The First Type. For some believers the above means (Jesus, his Word, and his church) serve towards the end of self-gratification, personal piety, personal satisfaction, and personal fulfillment. In other words, the end goal of the means is self. The above means that serve to this self-centered end can usually manifest it in people that seem to rest once they are “saved.” There is no urgency to see other people saved; in their opinion they are good—and that’s all that matters.
In addition, this type of believer seems to utilize Scripture as the ultimate self-help therapy, soaking up all the information and knowledge only to apply it to themselves while using their newfound knowledge as a judgement stick against everyone else who is not living like them. As a result they go around beating people with their judgement stick. Furthermore, this type of believer seems to make church all about them—their likes and preferences—as if the church should orbit around their wants and desires. Therefore, if the service isn’t what they think it should be, they can become upset; if the music isn’t what they think it should be, they can become upset; if the programs don’t support or line up with what they think they should be, they can become upset. And when they do become disturbed, their disturbance results in others’ disturbance, because they feel the need to communicate it to others.
In the end, this type of believer views church more as a “place,” a religious vending machine, where they go to get their needs met. The actions, attitude, and emotions of this type of believer speak volumes that the most important thing is not whether or not the gospel is being preached, God is being glorified, people are being saved, but that they are satisfied. To borrow a line from Paul, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Phil 3:19).
The Second Type. For other believers, Jesus, his word, and his church serve as means to glorify God and partner with him on his mission of redeeming the world as well as a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. In other words, Jesus, his word, and his church are not means to their end, but means to the end of God’s glory and his mission. While they certainly have personal benefits and satisfaction, the ultimate end of these means has God’s glory and his mission in the cross-hairs. This perception and paradigm shift is contrasted from the first type of believer.
For the second type of believer, their salvation ignites a grace-centered passion that motivates and mobilizes them to want to share Jesus with others. They live with an awareness of lostness and an intentionality of how they can reach and penetrate that lostness. In other words, they are constantly thinking about how they can reach others with the gospel that reached them.
In addition, this type of believer doesn’t view Scripture as a self-help remedy that solely applies to them in an effort to be a “better you,” but understands Scripture as the living Word of Jesus that conforms them into his image with the aim of making them salt and light in the world. In other words, Scriptural intake is not so much about making them (an individual) better, but making them more missional. They understand that God is conforming them into the image of Jesus in the world, in order for them to reflect his glory in a way that displays the gospel and foreshadows his coming kingdom.
Furthermore, those who have this paradigm shift in thinking, view church not as a place they go for spiritual and religious consumption, but view church as a people they belong to for spiritual and missional fueling. Instead of looking at church as a religious vending machine that exists for their preferences, they see church as a people they grow, give, and go with. In other words, they are active and contributive within the life of the people of God (the church).
Jesus, his Word, and his church are a means to an end. If not careful we all, including myself, can drift to viewing Jesus, his Word, and his church as a means to our “personal” end. Having a healthy daily dose of the gospel, reminding ourself of his work in our life and his mission in the world, will help to either move us or keep us as the type of believer that sees Jesus, his Word, and his church as a means for us to glorify God and partner with him in his mission in the world.