I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of the consumer church. We live in such a consumeristic culture that it has completely infiltrated the Church. Our society is used to instant gratification, what we want, we get, and we get it now. There is little brand loyalty today, except among older generations. We seek out the best and the fastest deal. How can I get more for less as quickly as possible.
What happens when this translates into the Church? We have a lot of people who come to consume. They want to take part in all that the Church has to offer to them, giving nothing in return. They want the latest and greatest programs, the greatest show on Sunday morning, and everything that their families could want or need. And if they don't get it, that's okay, there's another church down the street that will offer me what I want. They will let me consume without feeling any guilt or remorse.
Mind you, the Church hasn't been overtaken by these consumers, but they're there. They make their presence known. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?
As I've thought about the Church recently, I've become more and more convinced that consumerism doesn't grow disciples of Christ. In fact, it probably does just the opposite. Jesus was all about giving rather than taking. Jesus was all about serving, not being served. If we play into the consumerism of our culture within the Church, we are in danger of being incredibly "relevant" to our culture and yet not achieving the responsibility that Jesus gave us, to make disciples.
As I was talking with a few people the other day, I said something that kept ringing in my ears for the rest of the day. I don't think it's that I'm so brilliant, it's just that the way I said it seemed to have been in a way that I had not heard before. I said that programs absolve people of responsibility. In other words, there is a tendency within the Church for us to create programs to meet the needs of the community within the walls of the church. By doing this, we are in danger of absolving the people in our faith community of the responsibilities that they have.
The example that I had used when talking this out with some others was the greeter, you know, someone who stands at the entrance to the building and greets everyone who comes in. Personally, I think it's a good idea, it allows for people to have that "first touch" as soon as they walk in the door and it creates a welcoming atmosphere. But here's the potential problem that I see, if we create a specific role for people, are we in danger of absolving others of the responsibility of being friendly and welcoming to strangers, those that they don't know? Is it possible that people might think, "I don't need to greet anyone, we have a ministry for that?"
I think that you can carry this out to pretty much any ministry and see the potential for danger. Anyone who has spent time within the Church has seen that there are certain programs that can be abused more than others. VBS can end up being a day care service for people. Sunday morning worship can be an hour-long concert. Youth group can be a way to get your teenagers out of your hair for a little while. And the list goes on and on.
I'm not saying that all programs are bad and that they need to be stopped. What I am saying is that we need to reassess how and why we are doing the programs. Is there purpose in them? Do they evoke a sense of ownership or consumership? Do they absolve people of responsibility? And the million dollar question, do they help to create disciples or consumers?
There are too many things that can distract us from accomplishing that goal that I mentioned before, making disciples of Christ. If we absolve people of the responsibility of getting their hands dirty, we fail at that goal. There are plenty of places where people can go in our society to consume, let's not let the Church be one of them.