Suggestions from the Consumer-driven Life

kinnon —  November 14, 2007 — 26 Comments

Adverpacman01 I’m  a consumer.

Nothing wrong with that.
I like nice things.
Shiny things.
Techie things.
Tasty things.
Dark beers with a rich foam head.
Did I mention?
I’m a consumer.

So. You want me in your church. Here’s how to get me.

  1. Parking. I need lots of space for my big SUV. And it better be close to the doors. Don’t want to do much walking. So if it isn’t – how about a shuttle.
  2. Nice Building. This is important. I’m not interested in some strip mall church that looks like it’s struggling. Or an old traditional church – unless you’ve done millions in renos. I’m an upwardly mobile semi-professional. I want my surroundings to reflect my importance.
  3. Proper HVAC. This isn’t important. It’s critical. I want to be cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool. 68ºF to 72ºF – year round. Is that too much to ask.
  4. Comfy chairs. And when I say chairs, I mean chairs. Preferably theater-style. With wide arm rests. Give me some space for my girth – and safe distance from the other arriving consumers.
  5. Be punctual. I’ve already spent too much time getting me and the family ready and there for the meeting. Begin it on time. Have something cool playing on the big screens to entertain if we arrive a little early.
  6. You’ve got an hour. Make good use of it. I want to be in and out in no more than 75 minutes. Maybe a few more if you’re serving decent coffee. Decent coffee that’s free, of course.
  7. Music. Three songs up front. One fast (to get us going). One mid-tempo (to help us be reflective). End with a fast one (that tells us how much Jesus/God/the Spirit loves us – just no Jesus-Is-My-Boyfriend songs. OK!)
  8. Announcements. Get them over after the music. Present them on your big screens so they can be done quickly. This isn’t a time to stick your B-team on the platform to give them some face time. And, unless Larry David is writing for you, avoid humor. Have the Final Cut folk edit your marketing stuff down to 15 second bites. If it works for Sony, it’ll work for you.
  9. Offering. Now. It’s up to you where you put it. If the preacher is great, after the sermon might work better. If not. Go for the money after the announcements. (Maybe show some shots of starving third world kids in the last announcement. Heart-string-tugs work for Compassion and World Vision – why not your church.)  “God loves a cheerful giver” and the Malachi 3 verses and the 100 fold blessing are important reminders. A good story of how tithing worked for someone would be great. No more than 90 seconds though.
  10. Sermon. Twenty minutes. Did I make myself clear. 20 Minutes. 20. Twenty. We have the attention spans of gnats. Keep that in mind. Make it practical. If I wanted systematic theology, I would have gone to  seminary. Use humor. Steal from the best if necessary. I want to leave feeling built up. And it’s a bonus if I can use the jokes/stories you told at work tomorrow.
  11. Final song. Let the band rip on the last song. Feel good, happy-clappy works here. You want us wanting to come back for more next week.
  12. Benediction segue. Let the band lay back and under as you Bless Us. Speak multiplied blessings over us – and then do a fast pitch for whatever product you need to sell. I did say. Fast pitch.
  13. And then the band amps back up. This is the place for guitar or sax solos as we head out the doors to the shuttle bus or book store or free coffee. It’s okay to charge us something extra for Lattés.

Like I said. I’m a consumer. Oh. And a sort of a Christian. If you build this, I will come.

Or so you’ve been told.

Larger version of AdverPacMan available here. Do feel free to use it.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

26 responses to Suggestions from the Consumer-driven Life

  1. Do we laugh or cry after that? As a pastor, I see both the humor and the horror in the post. I guess I’d better get to work “to meet your needs.” I sure hope that your “needs” are like everyone else’s. If not–well, I don’t even want to think about that.

  2. You should be able to determine whose needs are most important by checking the tithing records. (And if you think I’m just being cynical, I know churches where the senior leadership knows full-well who gives what. And they respond accordingly.)

  3. You forgot one important thing … to make us all feel better about where this “stuff” is coming from …

    Make sure the coffee is Fair Trade
    The chairs come from sweatshop free manufacturing
    Etc …

    Because, at least at church, we want to feel good about what our money buys.

  4. OMG! Bill! I think I figured out where all of this came from!

    It was subliminal message sound looping from the Beatles’ song, “I’m a loser.” I’m sure of it…

    SAMPLE. Underneath the surface lyrics

    [“I’m a loser, and I’ve lost someone that’s dear to me / I’m a loser, and I’m not what I appear to be]

    are the subtle REEEEEEAL message lyrics:

    [“I’m consumer, and I’ve bought something that’s dear to me / I’m consumer, and I’m all that I appear to be].

    See? Subtle, really really subtle, eh?

    Just wait’ll I take that song and start working on the back-masking that surely must’ve been implanted in it …

  5. I get the humor in the post … I do …

    But the thing that might be missed is that people like this … people with high demands, limited free time, short attention spans, etc. … don’t they need Jesus too?

    Are you suggesting we say “screw you” to the vast majority of American culture, preach hour long sermons, use no stimulating media, no humor, choose songs randomly without consideration of the fact that we are emotional beings?

    I’m not saying all churches should cater to this crowd, but for those that do, many times they are reaching the otherwise unreached, no?

    Out of the 13 posted, my church probably does around 8 of them, and my church is full of people who have become solid Christians, but would have otherwise not been reached more than likely, outside that church.

    Just a thought.

  6. Bill, what’s interesting (funny? ironic? sad?) is that this post of yours is an unintentional skewering of an ongoing blog series by my church’s former pastor. Witness.
    (Bill says: I turned your link into an html link)

    I’m sure he’d say it’s not about consumer Christianity, but more about being mindful about who’s coming.

    I am finding that some, if not most, people are appreciative of coming and getting what they need, even if they wouldn’t have said they wanted it before attending.

  7. Jared,
    David Foster is a Canadian musician who has worked with some of the all time greats – including Earth, Wind and Fire and… a bunch of other people. I’m very sorry your former Pastor is attempting to steal his identity.

    Seriously, well sort of, the .tv site freaked me out. Especially his shot with the Bush impersonator. Yikes!

    But, at least he “speaks the language of the world fluently–having lived in it for years as a Christian” and he does drive a nice bike. Too cool for this old guy by half.

    When I can think of a witty response, I will…respond that is. (LATER) OK. Which 8?

  8. 2,3,4,5,7 … and parts of 9,11,13

    (the band normally plays an “invitational” type song, and the pastor does one last statement, maybe thanking you for coming or asking you to return next week, and takes up the offering while the band plays the very last song).

  9. You’ve likely seen this, but just in case…

  10. Bill,
    So where’s the humor? This is YOU, babyyy!


  11. OK, here are my ‘urban pastor’ responses:

    1. Parking: PARKING??? Eenjoy the suburbs, Bo-Bo bubba! You want to be hip and go to a city church, you gotta suck it up on the parking. Go see Radiant City, then repent and take the TTC. Better still, park your VE-hicle in our alley and fight your way through the pigeon poop and needles: authentic we got!

    2. Building: sorry, nice buildings are un-cool. Come to the run-down, uber cool warehouse loft that OOZES urban chic-rustic ‘realness.’ You want comfort? Willow awaits.

    3. Proper HVAC? Dude, you want HVAC in your face, HVAC surrounding you, HVAC making an art-sculpture STATEMENT about how gritty and real we are. Temp controls? That’s so 20th century.

    4. Be punctual/you’ve got an hour/Music; glad to see your charismatic history weaves its way into all that FREEDOM you give us. Look, parking is free until 1 on Sundays in the city- chill out, man! Even Willow goes an hour and 10. Thirty eight minutes per message, and THEY have you Boomers researched to a T.

    5. Sermon: dude, the narrative-generative-biblical-hip-journey-confessional intro I do every week takes at least 15 minutes ALONE. That would leave 5 minutes for my cutting edge exegesis- and what about my cultural engagement, my Christocentric finale and invitation to try our new espresso machine?! And you would barely have enough time to notice my nuanced outfit and new, just-over-from-Europe glasses.

    6. FInal song/benediction/amp it up yada yada yada: Ok, I see you HATE your congregation and want to spend as little time as possible talking to them, so you wantloud music that drive us all home. Where’s the espresso-shaped community, brah?




  12. Who wrote this? Denis Leary?! very funny.

  13. OK Bill, this is really scary because I think you might have been a fly on the wall @ a leadership meeting @ our old church. No kidding, this could be a transcript of a meeting Rickard & I attended when the pastors were trying to sell us the notion we needed a bigger building. These were things the pastor brought up. He had gotten letters from people who thought it was too hot, the chairs to hard, the worship bands too loud, there wasn’t a cross on the stage. Unbelievable!!!

  14. Both the church of the original post and the church of Dan McDonald’s imaginings are products that cater to different ‘markets.’ And if I get my identity from the products I consume, I may prefer one style to another, or one fashion to another. If I see either product as a reflection of my identity, I’m still diseased with consumerism (whether I’m a ‘traditional’ church-goer or an ’emergent’ type.)

    I don’t think style is the issue here… I think it’s the merchandising of Christianity, whether that be in a ‘traditional’ flavour or an ’emergent’ flavour. I’m not really looking for more flavours from which to make my consumption decisions. I’m looking to participate in the kingdom of God, not the marketing of it.

    So I think both Bill and Dan provide important satirical commentary here…

  15. I think I’ll make a more local version for our staid traditional state church…

  16. Bill,

    Nice post.

    A few more to add:

    If you expect to do most of your “meaty teaching” in small groups during the week, and I should happen to be single, there ought to be at least a couple smokin’ hot single babes in the small group if you expect me to keep attending.

    If you want me to keep attending the church, don’t ask me to be accountable for anything. I just want to be who I am right now, and accountability doesn’t factor into that model.

    Make sure the church bulletin has a message outline on the back with little blanks I can fill in while the pastor speaks. This makes me feel like I’m tracking what he’s saying.

    It would be nice if the worship team plays music like what I hear on K-LOVE. That way I can always buy a WOW Worship CD at the church bookstore and feel like I’m participating in the process.

  17. We are dreaming of a new look church in our hood that would really image the community. Our young, innovative team has come up with some missional core values of our new church service.

    Here is what we have come up with:

    1.Gritty: Not too slick, not over-produced, but REAL worship, real testimonies, real conversations;

    2. Urban: reflects our context, understands urban ethos for architecture, the arts, academic ‘pushing the envelope.’ Our illustrations, our building, our liturgy will reflect the city and image its diversity.

    3. Intentional: we will value having our people develop deep relationships with their friends and neighbors. WE will limit our programming at the church to allow for missional engagement, provided it is-

    4. Natural: we will not ‘bait and switch’ people with the gospel. We will allow the church to grow organically as we foster real relationships; creating a counterculture that is-

    5. Noumenous: we will admit we don’t have all the answers, that God is bigger than we are, and that part of the beauty of the gospel is its mystery. We want people to come into our community and feel wonder, not just cognitive information dumping, so that we are actually –

    6. Edifying: building people up in their faith as it is lived out,not just intellectualy apprehended. We want people to be growing in their faith in a positive way. We will speak positively about our city, and its culture. We will speak words of encouragement to each other and avoid some of the Christ-dishonoring criticism of brothers and sisters in Christ; but in so doing we will remain-

    7. Sound: reflecting honestly the truth of Christ as He is revealed in the scriptures. We will not water down some of the hard sayings of Jesus, which are just as piercing to the Christian as they are the seeker and skeptic; yet in our soundness we will keep it-

    8. Simple: We will not succumb to being egg-heads on doctrinal power-trips, but keep the simple truth of the gospel understandable to people at every stage of their journey of faith.

    Does this sound good to you? We are going to host an inaugural conference about creating these types of churches. Because of the desire for this to spread virally, we are not pushing it too widely, but if you would like to be part of this Gathering, then please respond to our new website about the conference. For clarity, we are naming the conference after the acrostic that makes up the
    8 core values: GUINNESS. Please check it out :

    The first conference will be held @ Allan’s Pub, two blocks from Bill’s pad, Friday Dec. 7 @ 8 pm.

    See you there


  18. Allen’s is less than one block from my place, I’ll have you know. And it’s one of the best pubs in the city! Good luck getting a table on Friday night @ 8pm – unless, of course, you’re willing to sit on the patio…in December…in Toronto.

    You had me going, Dan. But I might just grab dinner @ Allen’s that night anyway. Their sweet potato fries are to die for.

  19. No. Wait. I’ll be in Vancouver that night. Sorry.

  20. Holy Cheap Seats, Kinnon — that was actually funny.

  21. And while Andy in Germany thinks up the ‘staid traditional’ version, here are a few I have had as a minister in a ‘staid traditional’ church:

    1. Only select your hymns from the twenty or thirty best known traditional hymns of all time.

    2. I don’t want a modern-language version of the Lord’s Prayer.

    3. We want a children’s address in the service, even when there are no children present. We like them better than sermons.

    4. Speaking of which, keep your sermons to ten minutes.

    5. I come to church to feel good about myself. Don’t tell me off about anything.

  22. nathan,

    good point and it seems you are almost totally ignored on it. this is why i am so tired of these “lists”. they make those who detest consumerism feel better about themselves at the expense of others who really do need jesus . just one more internal war amongst us “christians”.

  23. And here I thought I was just ignoring Frank. Sorry, Nathan.

  24. Okay I just came from this church, I swear! Seriously! God’s answer to what I needed was my new church.

    1. Have a pastor who will speak the truth no matter how distasteful it is.

    2. Follow what the Holy Spirit wants in a service. Yeah your belly will grumble, yes we have been here 2.5 hours. You got a problem with that? Leave.

    3. Drive out in the middle of nowhere and find the little church out in the middle of a cornfield. Park where ever there is room. Watch the dog poop if you have to go to the Youth building/converted garage.

    4. Hi tech? We can usually get the digital projector to work. Yes you might have to wait for it while we move cables. We aren’t wasting money on a fancy switch so you don’t have to wait. Again, patience.

    5. You want to be a spectator? Sorry, we have to know who you are and we want you to know us, so pardon all the hand shaking and hugs. If someone calls you to see if we can help out, sorry!

    6. Don’t get to know leadership or you might very well get an email speaking truth into your life that will make you curse at the dog because it hurts that bad. Sorry, but iron sharpens iron.

    7. Coffee? Didn’t you stop at the gas station? Besides, we are Mt. Dew people. Bring your own.

    8. Programs? Um… yeah we might have a few left if the copier is working. It’s on the date book. Go look.

    9. Music too loud? We got earplugs. You want a cross? Yeah its behind the screen. Pastor doesn’t tuck his shirt in? Yeah we like that.

    10. Fancy cars? Pardon my oil stain. I need to rebuild the engine so I can get another 200k out of it. I only paid $150 for it what do you expect?

    11. Um, sorry but Pastor preached for an hour today, God kept telling him stuff and he was obedient to God instead of your watch. Again, your welcome to leave, but we want what God wants.

    12. We made you feel bad? How? Oh, we called sin what it is? Sorry, but we are here for God, not to make you feel comfortable.

    13. Chairs uncomfortable? It’s okay, you should have been standing during worship anyhow or on your face in worship. We understand.

    14. HVAC? Um, yeah its cold… wait an hour, it will be too hot after 60 people are worshiping with everything. It’s okay, we don’t mind sweat. Novel idea, wear a sweater, then take it off.

    15. We keep talking about sin and satan and hell. I never heard that before, and it makes me uncomfortable. Oh well… truth is truth and we speak it. I know its uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be!

    16. Wait, you didn’t make me feel better about myself. I feel worse. – Yeah, that’s called conviction. You’ll feel that here. That thing up front with all the people praying is the altar. Your welcome to join them. We aren’t here to make anyone feel better, we are here to glorify God. That’s the purpose of everything. Yeah, we do real altar calls. Sorry if your embarrassed.

    HEH. I love my church. I love my pastor, and my family. It’s changed my life. I’ll never go back!


Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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