The names say it all: YouTube. MySpace. And, of course, the "i's" - iPod, iTunes, iMac, iPhone and iPad. If there is a theme to our day, it's that "it's all about me." Tom Wolfe had earlier labeled the 1970s the "Me Decade." In her book Generation Me, Jean M. Twenge writes that compared to today's generation, "they were posers."
It's called narcissism.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus is the character who, upon passing his reflection in the water, becomes so enamored with himself that he devotes the rest of his life to his own reflection. From this we get our term "narcissism," the preoccupation with self.
The value of narcissism is the classic "I, me, mine" mentality that places personal pleasure and fulfillment at the forefront of concerns. Historian Christopher Lasch went so far as to christen ours "the culture of narcissism," saying that this is the new religion - a religion where we don't actually want religion proper, but instead, personal therapy.
And it is just this spirit which has invaded our thinking, even those who claim to follow Christ.
Eavesdrop, for a moment, on our rhetoric.
"I want to go where I'm fed" - not where we can learn to feed ourselves, much less feed others.
"I need to be ministered to," as if ministry in the life of the Christ-follower is something that happens to us, instead of something we make happen through us for others.
We walk out of a worship service and say, "I didn't get anything out of it," as if that was its purpose - our edification, instead of God's.
This from a people whose Savior said,
"I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many."
"Whoever wants to be first must become last."
"Whoever wants to be great among must become the slave of all."
"Not my will, but thine."
Sadly, a spiritual narcissism has invaded our thinking where the individual needs and desires of the Believer have become the center of attention.
All to say…
This past weekend, we launched two new sites. We now have five different campuses and seventeen services each weekend in an effort to reach our community for Christ.
There are certain members of our staff and volunteer teams that have worked ridiculous hours to make our latest expansion happen. One of these individuals is a long-time attender who, years ago, lost a bet to a friend, and as a result had to come to our very first service at a Hilton hotel. She became one of the first to give her life to Christ through the ministry of our church. This week, she sent the following message to me:
…it's been a tough few weeks, but so good in so many ways.
Last Sunday when I was setting up in both of the [new] sites I couldn't help but think back 17 years ago to the Hilton. Someone was setting up chairs and sound equipment and a children's ministry and putting out signs and just praying someone would come and hear about Christ. They - YOU - had no idea who would show up, but you prayed that someone would....and I did, and my life has never been the same.
It was an overwhelming feeling last Sunday knowing that now I was setting up seats, stages, lights, running cords, etc. for someone else who might just 'lose a bet' and have to show up at church ... and have their world rocked, their eternity altered all because the church came to them.
That's worth every tough conversation, it's worth every opposition Satan has thrown our way, it's worth all the sweat, tears and in some cases blood...it's worth it, because lost people matter to God and I'm so glad I did to you and that small band of volunteers 17 years ago. The mission is so good, so overwhelming and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.
What sets a person apart like that? It's simple. She has grasped one of the deepest spiritual truths; one that runs counter to our culture, but is dangerously close to reflecting the life of Christ.
"It's not about her."
And just so there is no misunderstanding, it's not about me, either.
And it's not about you.
James Emery White
Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me (New York: Free Press).
Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations (New York: W.W. Norton).