You’ve been in an elevator, right? You’re on one floor and you need to get to another floor. So you push a button, hop in, press the floor that you want and ride up to whatever floor you want. It is not uncommon to treat Christianity like this. I think it’s what happens anytime we create a two-tier type of Christianity: distinguishing between the haves and have nots. The haves do something to press that button, which usually comes in the form of some type of prescription – do this to take you from here to there.
This can come in many forms. It can be just going to the next level. Or it’s following Christ as opposed to believers who don’t really follow Christ (don’t get me started on that unwarranted distinction between Christians and disciples. You either are in union with Christ and indwelt with the Holy Spirit or you are not). Or it’s those that are spirit-filled vs. those who aren’t spirit-filled. Or it’s those who really go out and do big things for God vs. those who don’t. Or it’s those who make disciples vs. those who don’t…and the list goes on.
I also think there is a self-centered focus on elevator Christianity. What is most important is to do whatever is required to get to that next level for yourself. If you’re not discipling enough, or not Spirit-filled enough, or not doing big enough things for God or aren’t surrendering enough, do X, press the button and then you have sufficiently reached your goal. And that is the point of elevator Christianity. Step in, do what is necessary, to reach your goal so you won’t be like those Christians who aren’t doing x, y or z.
Now it may sound well and good and go to the next level and do more for Christ, but I’m going to suggest that this concept is inconsistent with what I see in scripture as it relates to spiritual growth on an individual basis, but more importantly a corporate basis.
First, the responsibility for Christians as individuals is to mature in the faith, which means there is a progressive nature to growth. There is no magic formula of do X and receive Y. Rather, it is learning to set our affections on things above (Colossians 3:1), being transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), putting off control of the old nature (Ephesians 4:22-24) and responding appropriately to our union in Christ (Romans 6). It is also important to see that it is God who works these things in us (Philippians 2:13) by the same grace which provided new life (Galatians 2:20-21; 3:2-3).
But more importantly, elevator Christianity contradicts what the body is supposed to be to one another. You see, if the goal is to get ahead and be a “have” so you won’t be like the “have nots”, how does that contribute to the body growing itself up together in love (Ephesians 4:16) or to doing what is beneficial for the sake of the other (Philippians 2:3-4). The strong help the weak and everybody contributes for the sake of the other. Please show me where in scripture we focus on individual pursuits of going to another level to not be like “them” (however we define that).
But here’s another example of how individualistic American success philosophy drives the contemporary church. I think we need to just get off the elevator and see how we can contribute to body of Christ so we all point to the head and grow together.