Throwaway Church

November 16th, 2011

“Throw Away World”

Have you noticed how much stuff you throw away? Every week, I’ve got a couple of trash bags and some recyclables, stuff that was once useful to me, which I now never want to see again. I have no sentimental value attached to my trash.

Some of that stuff I throw out, I hardly even used at all.

Like the paper cups that I used for a few minutes with my lunch. When I finished my delicious carbonated drink, I had absolutely no more use for a cup. In fact, it seems that judging by the floor of my car that I could not fathom any possible future use for a cup once I was finished with it…until the next time I become thirsty. Why use an old cup when there’s a new cup?

It’s not just trash that we throw out by the truckload. Our entire culture has become disposable, temporary, single-serving, one-time-use-and-then-throw-it-away…

…Including our churches.

Throw Away Generation

The younger generations have finally become serious (at least we tell ourselves) about managing waste and being good stewards of the Earth. But have you thought about how quickly we consume and throw away our culture?

I’m talking about the things that enter your eyes and ears.

Have you thought about what makes classical music classical? It’s because it has a quality of timelessness. It speaks beyond its generations; it travels beyond its homeland.

We don’t create many timeless things today. We don’t create timeless art or music that will be appreciated long after we are gone. We create things that are meant to be used once, and then thrown away. We create pop culture.

Mental Landfills

Pop culture quickly loses its flavor and is thrown out. The music industry churns out songs which radio stations play incessantly. But like a piece of gum, they quickly lose their taste, and are forgotten once they fall off the charts.

Our DVRs and Netflix queues are filled with shows which we absentmindedly watch once and then forget. Every day we are exposed to thousands of advertisements which a team of people spent hours creating so that you would look at it for two seconds before mentally disposing of it.

We chase fads and trends and forward internet memes that are passé in just a few weeks.

We spend our time following the lives of celebrities who have absolutely no right to be famous. They have no right to have our attention, because they create nothing except attention for themselves.

We seek to be constantly entertained. We never want to have a dull moment in our days, but we can hardly remember half of what we did yesterday. We’ve already thrown it away.

Could we ever calculate the time we spend creating all this throw-away stuff? If we could quantify all of the mental garbage that we use and then throw away, I believe the Earth would not have room for all the landfills that would be created.

Throw Away Church

And in this way, Christians aren’t much different from anyone else.

Every Sunday, Christians go to church…

…And they sing the songs that they like…for now. But Christian music is churned out as quickly as secular music, so it’s almost possible to never sing a song more than once or twice. I love songs like Gungor’s “Beautiful Things.” I wonder when the new songs I love will be tossed out in favor of something newer and “better.” Why use an old cup when there’s a new cup?

…And the pastor preaches a sermon. And like a band-aid, the sermon is applied by the listeners to wherever it hurts, and by Tuesday or Wednesday, the boo-boo that was bothering them so much is hardly remembered and the sermon has been thrown away by their minds.

You would think that in a place where a timeless God is discussed that something about worshipping Him would feel somewhat timeless. But so much of our efforts are spent on single-serving things. Video montages that will be seen once, songs that will be sung a few times before being rotated out. We just get so caught up in the relentless approach of Sunday each week that it’s easy to get through one Sunday, and then just throw it away and start over.

Maybe that’s what’s missing. Maybe we need to stop chasing the new and “contemporary,” and start pursuing things that are timeless.

What do you think? Is the church preaching timeless truths, or is it chasing temporary fads like the rest of the world?

Matt Appling is a pastor and school teacher in Kansas City, Missouri.  He blogs at

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