Consumer Church

I’ve been thinking this week about the trend in NortAm towards “Consumer Church”. McChurch. I know the popular terms are “emerging” and “missional” and “attractional” but I’m wondering if our culture hasn’t created this hybrid “consumer church” thing? As I think this through I’m torn between the reality of being a “cultural missionary” and going along with something that has more in common with an economic ideology than the story of Jesus.

mcchurchMy culture is clearly consumer driven. I’m living in a “value added” world that seeks, when it’s doing its’ best, to make me feel special, important and catered to on a very individual level. At some level that means the “language” of my culture (and please do imagine me making those quote signs in the air every time you see them around a word or phrase here as I absolutely can’t stand people who do that!) is in the consumer tongue. To hear the story of Jesus, for those deep-rooted in that culture, the “consumer filter” has to be acknowledged. (I’m subconsciously over doing the quote marks on purpose now I think…)

You know you’re deep-rooted in consumer culture if:
1) you get irritated if the McWorker forgets to say “thank you” after taking your order.
2) you complain that your coffee isn’t filled “all the way” to the rim.
3) you ever expected a discount from anyone for any reason.
4) you take exception with any of the above 3.

You know you’re deep-rooted in consumer church culture if:
1) you get turned on by words like “new”, “fresh”, “rhema” or “contemporary”.
2) your feelings about church are based on the last Sunday morning “service” you attended.
3) you can’t believe they aren’t using flavoured creamers yet at the free coffee centre.
4) you have ever expected to get your “money’s worth” from church.

O.K., those aren’t exactly scientific tests but you get the idea. Do we pander to this aspect of culture so that we can take down barriers to share the story of Jesus or does passing the story of Jesus through this filter taint it in such a way that it alters the story so much that it becomes “another” gospel? Do I create the impression that Jesus wants you to “have it your way” or that his primary thought towards me is that “you deserve a break today” by the environment we create in our gatherings?


About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
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6 Responses to Consumer Church

  1. Brianna says:

    I enjoyed this post.

    It seems that all those terms, that are like many others becoming “christianese” when we really don’t want them to (emerging, missional, contemporary, et al) are important concepts that have been harped on far too much as of late.

    I personally place value on being part of a church that relates to common culture. However, it seems we spend too much time “finding the language” of how to be that, instead of focusing on how God the father, son and holy spirit can transform us into these consumer church things.

    The person or persons who thought the “McChurch terms” into being had the right idea, but like we do in consumer, westernized culture, the good ideas became over produced and now we are all tired of hearing about them.

    • brianmpei says:

      Thanks Brianna! I suppose it’s like my favourite song heard once too often on satellite radio. We can talk about life or we can live. Maybe we’re finally becoming a generation that chooses to live.

  2. Yves says:

    I find this refreshing Brian.

    I like :
    “3) you can’t believe they aren’t using flavoured creamers yet at the free coffee centre.”

    Maybe, there could be a 3.1) if you expect to have a free coffee center

    Something that I’ve not done enough of in the last year is take more time to connect with people. Last year I made the choice to become self-employed and that’s definately taken precious time away from connecting with people…. with my kids, with people in various meetings…

    I find the filter, or sales pitch/presentation that is sometimes given really gives a different message… sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle… I’m not an “expert” (… thank God) but I’ve really not seen Jesus give any sales pitches or use such a “feel good filter”…. instead, from what I read, I see a more loving honesty (some might say brutal honesty) … not saying “now how does that make you feel??”.. instead maybe “you brood of vipers”…

    I mean, if your friend acts like a selfish jerk…. however he feels is besides the point that he’s acting like a selfish jerk.

    We’re a culture that loves everything to cater to our feelings.. so we don’t have to look at and acknowledge that which is not pleasant in ourselves.

    That’s my $0.02… I mean, if I would have shown up in the “recovery groups” years back and they would have been obsessed about catering to my feelings or selling me a “feel good” solution (maybe another way to say it) I may not be here today. Maybe through misfortune I would have landed in some doctor’s office and could have started taking all the wonderful pills they now have so I could hope those spendid TV commercials would somehow come true. I’ve known people who’ve lived that scenario.

    I needed the message that Jesus was preaching and not “some sugar coated not so direct let’s not make him feel bad” kinda message. At the same time, I had to be ready to hear it.

    I often think of this:
    Mark 6:10-12 (New International Version)
    10 .Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.
    11. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.
    12. They went out and preached that people should repent.

    Tough bunch of guys.

    • brianmpei says:

      Good stuff Yves, thanks for adding your voice to this. I think AA and recovery groups, at their best, reflect what the community of Jesus followers is supposed to be like with each other. Loving honesty indeed. Brutal.

  3. Randy A. says:

    I left the Ozark Christian College “Christian Church Brotherhood” six years ago. I speak as a former minister and youth minister in the movement. I grew tired of the critical sermons of other denominations and other methods for reaching lost people for Jesus. The church of my roots spends way to much time protecting their “turf” and their cash flow from older christians who primarily want to protect their traditions. I love most of the traditions, but I love lost people more. One of the last sermons I heard at Edmond Christian Church was from a professor from OCC. His sermon was the importance of the cross of Christ. He spent 15 minutes berating Willow Creek and a few other big churches for not displaying crosses. There is a world of young people going to hell and “our” churches are spending too much time arguing about methods instead of loving sinners right where they are. The old church model is broken. Why? Because it is not a place where lost people feel accepted. I know you were being more analytical than judgmental with the McChurch picture, but i believe if it is legal and you are not sinning, use whatever God puts in front of you to help people discover a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    My family and I attend the Edmond, OK campus of I have never seen so many people seeking the face of Jesus in my life. Some of my relatives were concerned about us joining this church. Their concern was about the stance on baptism. We have a “Baptism Bash” every other month. We baptize hundreds every time at our campus alone. (We are one of thirteen.)

    Malcolm Fowler put it this way: “We are like a hunting dog sniffing at the pointed finger of the master instead of going and doing where he is pointing!”

    To me the question is not “Where do you attend?”, to me the question is, “Do you currently invite people to your church?” If not, why?

    May I am just talking to hear my head rattle.

    Randy Allsbury

    • brianmpei says:

      Randy, thanks for joining in. We’re a long way from those OCC days, eh? I left “the fold” over a decade ago. I’m a big fan of Craig and lifechurch (of course I’m a big fan of Whitecastle too) and believe the motto “anything short of sin…”. We use a lot of the free resources they kindly make available. I agree with your assessment of the movement of which we were a part – in some ways I still feel I embrace the ideals, just not the execution!

      Having said all that, I think we still need wonder what version of Jesus we’re introducing people to by our methodology. I think that if the medium is the message – and I think so – what picture are we developing in people’s hearts about who Jesus is?

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