I was struck by this on one of my regular blog reads where a commenter asked that very question. In response to a multi-site church discussion he asked, “What’s wrong with being a consumer?”
I wish I had time to get into that today. You can check out my series on Marketing the Church in the left sidebar to get a handle on where I stand. (Part One, Part Two, Part Two b, Part Three, Part Four & Part Fin). And you might find these posts of mine interesting.
But what I really want to do is point you to a number of what I see as important posts on the Church and Consumerism. The first two are on Ed Stetzer’s blog. (Ed has a backbone of steel and the grace of Darryl Dash.) The first is Questions for McChurch and the 2nd is Questions for Questions for McChurch. There’s a very good discussion in the comments where Bob Hyatt weighs in on the discussion – and Geoff Surrat responds gracefully.
Here’s a McChurch post of mine from Feb 1 of this year. (I’m not 10% as grace filled as Ed but you knew that already.)
KingdomGrace’s Post-Critical? is another important read from one of my favourite bloggers. She deals with the Business as Usual nature of too much of the church in the west. (I would conflate the business model for church leadership with the consumeristic issues of the Western Church.) It really is about attracting and maintaining an audience. She comments on the new Bill Hybels Reveal Justification clip where she says,
I have a great deal of respect for Bill, but I had trouble sifting through the business and attractional language in this clip – strategic, models, relevant, initiatives, spiritually catalytic, effectiveness, weekend event, service, adjustments, more effective, more information, lead better, seeker ministry, risk profile – yada, yada, yada.
“You have to thrill believers in order to move them to a place where they see people far from God the way Jesus sees them.” [Hybels quote from video.]
I am trying to put a positive spin on what he meant by thrilling believers. Better worship songs? video clips of Bono? better coffee and donuts? What kind of thrilling might be happening in the multi-million dollar building at the well-produced service of the weekend event? Maybe there could be a power point of what’s happening outside the walls in order to “thrill the believers” into seeing others the way Jesus sees them.
And though Ron Merola’s line that “all truth is God’s truth” makes me cringe, his post, The Church is Not a Business makes some very good points.
In the pages of Scripture, we get a very different model for how the church is to operate. Success there does not depend on a person’s brilliance, their adherence to the latest best practices, or their ability to master ingenious strategies. It depends on God; on being “empowered” by the Holy Spirit. We don’t “market” Jesus or what the church has to offer; we become what God is calling us to be and let that speak for itself. We don’t “sell” the Gospel or manage customers, commodifying both the teachings of Jesus and the people we are called to serve. And language really does matter in how we think about these things.
And perhaps most counter cultural of all, we don’t necessarily pursue success; we pursue faithfulness. The people we meet in Scripture are so often are failures. Many appear to be inconsequential and insignificant. The secret of their “success” is their radical reliance on God, and their faithfulness in following His lead.
[My apologies to whomever pointed me @ Ron’s post. I should be linking to you.]
The bottom line for me in responding to “What’s Wrong with Being a Consumer” is that the church isn’t about consumption – it’s about the production of new life at the personal, corporate, neighborhood and global levels. The creator who chooses to indwell us motivates us to creation rather than consumption.