The biggest shopping day of the year is almost here. On “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, people turn out in droves to begin their Christmas shopping and take advantage of all the bargains offered by the stores. My daughters and I – and sometimes others who have joined us for the holiday – spend time on Thanksgiving Day pouring over the sale papers and developing our plan of attack.
Our goal is to save money on what we would be buying for Christmas anyway. We search the flyers to find the right item with the right features at the best price. Then we determine our schedule of stops based on what stores open at what time. We are usually out the door by 4:45am and back home by 11:00am with half of our Christmas shopping done!
We have learned the power of the American consumer. We know that marketers cater to our needs and desires because they want our business. If one store does not satisfy us, then we simply go somewhere else that will. Unfortunately, this mindset has infiltrated the Church. Many Christians have allowed the consumer mentality to affect their faith and their relationship with the local church. We ask the church, “What do you have to offer me?”
One way this worldview shows itself is in “church hopping.” We’ve all seen it. We may have even done it. I’m not talking about a real need to find a new church through God’s guidance due to a move to a new town or because a church is teaching false doctrine. I’m talking about switching to another church because we don’t like something going on that is basically superficial. Or because we want something that meets our needs better. Other times it manifests as picking and choosing services and programs from different churches like a menu and never fully investing ourselves in a church body.
God puts His church together just like He has determined (1 Corinthians 12:24). That means He has chosen which church body He wants us to be a part of and how He wants us to function in it. Our church membership and involvement is about serving Him and the church body, not meeting our own needs. However, when we are in God’s will He will also be meeting our needs.
Illinois pastor, Skye Jethani, writes about Christians’ insistence on choice in 2006 “Leadership Journal” article. ( Read the entire article here.) Consumers demand options, but this poses a problem. Formation into the likeness of Christ is not accomplished by always getting what we want…In consumer Christianity, however, church leaders function as religious baristas, supplying spiritual goods for people to choose from based on their preferences. Our concern becomes not whether people are growing, but whether they are satisfied. An unhappy member, like an unhappy customer, will find satisfaction elsewhere.
It’s not just the individual Christian who has bought into consumer Christianity. The church has done it too. The body of Christ uses entertainment and marketing gimmicks to entice the Christian consumer. The church has learned if “they want our business, then they will have to earn it!” So, the church uses lights and sound and razzle dazzle to keep us coming back for more. Don’t get me wrong. The church should do everything it does with excellence to the glory of God. But there is a difference between giving God our best in worship and putting on a show to draw a human audience.
A church in the Chicago area actually gives away money from the offering to get people to attend. The pastor pulls a “lucky” seat number in each of the three Sunday morning services. If you are in the right seat you win either $250 or $500. The church gives away $1,000 every Sunday. The pastor says their weekly attendance has risen from about 1,600 to 2,500. Hmm, I wonder why? (Read the entire story here.)
So, what’s the alternative? According to the Bible, what is the right attitude about faith and following Christ? Stay tuned for Part Two of “Church Mart.” We’ll see what Jesus had to say about discipleship.