Consumerism in the Church

Check out this interesting commentary by Skye Jethani on consumerism in the church in this short video:

I think he raises an interesting point about the assumed cultural values the medium of our church experience communicates.  If Sunday morning church experiences are dedicated to the “entertainment” and “comfort” of the parishioner, then it is no surprise that eventually many people will just stop attending church.  When the pastor says something that makes Suzy uncomfortable or when the praise leader fails to entertain Sam or when the parking lot gets too full for Sally or the children’s ministry makes Samantha’s kid cry, church no longer meets our needs.

As a church planter trying to recruit a launch team, I feel like I have to cater to people’s needs.  If I don’t, no one will come.  I have to sell people on an experience.  Ultimately though I want to sell people on God not comfort.  In Christian community I believe God is alive and available, but I don’t believe it needs to be a comfortable experience.  Christian community that brings God to life is the often times the hard kind of community that happens when people get close to one another.  God comes alive in the context of frustration with your friend that flows into forgiveness.  God comes alive when godly people learn to extend grace after a gaffe.  God comes alive in the uncomortable parts of our lives.  When people commit to one another in the name of Jesus and stick together through the good and the bad that is when God comes alive.

I believe church is a compelling place to be, but not because it is comfortable.  Church is compelling because its a place people can meet God.  The transcendent presence of God is compelling no matter how bad your parking situation may be, because it meets a core human need.  When a community practices the lay-down-your-life kind of love for one another that Jesus taught us, God is there.  And, a community where God is present meets a core need that every person has.


2 responses to “Consumerism in the Church”

  1. A very thoughtful blog.

    A few phrases from the interview stick out regarding churches today:
    “The transition from sacred space to theatre space’
    “Is the space challenging or reinforcing cultural values?”
    “The medium is the message.”

    This concept is challenging my paradigmatic understanding of how to do church and it is a much needed jolt to the status quo of what we’ve come to expect from church. Growing up I remember church being a “sacred place” or a “sacred space” and nowadays I don’t really feel that anymore. Truly, I feel like most sanctuaries look like theaters or auditoriums. I’m still processing. I have to say that some of my most powerful transformational experiences have been when I have been the most uncomfortable: Christian summer camp in cramped quarters and one bathroom, growing up attending a city church in an old rented facility, penniless student living by faith, and working with youth in New York City.

    God will meet us wherever we are–whether it’s a community center with no trimmings or a decked out multi-million dollar church. And like the Sunday school songs states, “The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people. We are the church; you are the church; we are the church together.”

  2. Recently I was thinking how music worship has moved from active participation to passive viewing of a performance. What you and Skye have touched on is much bigger and really makes one think.