There is no country where the church has the American church's resources. And yet, with all the advantages it has: wealth; technology; training; strategy, and Biblical knowledge, we are not doing well in many congregations. In fact, we inadvertently hurt ourselves by focusing on the wrong things, which causes us to miss the best things. We are often building a culture of consumerism over disciple-making and that is hurting us and God's people.  Here are some examples of how we inadvertently hurt ourselves in some quarters.

In our concern for "market share" (yes, that is a thing), we appeal to the consumer mentality of church members rather than to the Biblical Mandate of making disciples. In the city in which I live, the revolving door among the large churches particularly has been evident for the past several decades. A "cool" church will appear and make a splash, and its weekend experience is impressive, and migration takes place from other churches to the cool church. 

The problem is that we are training congregants to look for "what's in it for me" rather than focusing on helping them become disciples who love Jesus, and when another cool church appears that is cooler than the church I am attending, the migration happens again. If we train consumers, they will act like consumers. If we disciple people to follow Jesus, they will follow Him. The two are not the same. 

This goes to our marketing efforts as well. We develop programs and swag and the best stage presence because that is what will bring people in, and yet we miss the magnetic quality that actually builds a long-term family of believers - a congregation that loves Jesus and each other which is the greatest marketing tool a church could have. 

The consumer mentality of the church impacts our teaching. I am bemused that there are churches that won't even use the word preaching or teaching (two very Biblical words), but they talk on staff about who is doing the "presentation" that week. And the presentation must not be controversial (which Jesus and the Scriptures usually are), must not deal with the hard topics of the Bible (of which there are many), and must be uplifting, relevant, and non-controversial. It is a win, perhaps for market share, but how is it a win for helping people understand God and His Word?

Too often, we want people to love our church and be loyal to our church rather than wanting people to truly love Jesus and be loyal to Him. Think about the Gospels. Jesus did not try to be cool and hip. Rather He was authentic and spoke truth with amazing mercy and grace. He came full of Grace and Truth. 

The early church, likewise, had few of the advantages our contemporary churches do. But what they had was an infectious love for God and one another that was a magnet for those around them. As to the "teach," this is what Paul had to say about his preaching. "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power" (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)." Paul would not be invited to speak in many of our cool, large churches today.

Nor, maybe Jesus because He talked about a "narrow gate" to God. He said that no one comes to the Father except through Him, and He spoke of heaven and, if you can believe it, hell and coming judgment. He did it with grace, but He spoke the truth - truths that we are often fearful of speaking ourselves. For those who want to be cool, Jesus said some very inconvenient things. 

And one last thing. Jesus championed humility over pride and ego. Yet many of our congregations today who live in the consumer space are driven by leaders with egos who have an agenda to grow their brand. Why do we brand? Because we are building a brand that is ours and that will set us apart from the rest. But Jesus talked about championing the Father, and Paul build a brand not around personalities (see 1 Corinthians) but around Jesus and the cross and following Him.

These are all contrasts between consumerism and discipleship. Which are you building in the church you attend? It is worth thinking about. 

  • Jun 05, 2023
  • Category: News
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