Consumerism In the Church

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a consumerist society.  But of course you’ve noticed.  Chances are you’ve even participated.  What I mean by consumerist is this: The law of supply and demand is alive and well.  It might be unwritten and unspoken, but still it’s considered.  We buy cars, boats, houses, and other material possessions (read: toys) based on what we believe will make us happy.  And nine times out of ten, they never do.  But we’re slow learners and we keep trying.

The last few weeks, my family and I had the opportunity to attend other churches on vacation.  Intentionally, I never spoke to anyone about being a pastor.  I wanted them to treat me as just another visitor and observe how they did things.  I was never asked what I did so it wasn’t too difficult to keep that off of the table.  But there were some interesting things that I noticed.

The first church we attended with friends was large.  We attended the fifth of five services that particular weekend.  Upon arriving, there were people coming and going.  I observed what appeared to be friends catching up on their week and a staff that was scurrying about making sure their responsibility was fulfilled.  The worship was great.  The sermon was on service and an invitation to get involved in ministry was given.  After leaving, my wife and I had the conversation about how the church gets people involved.  Surely, for such a large church, this would be difficult.  I was told that even our friends attended every week but weren’t “plugged in” to something more.  Small groups, Sunday school classes, and other ministries were offered but several were falling through the cracks.  I wondered why.

The second week, we attended a smaller church where we didn’t know anyone.  We were greeted at the door by a lady with a huge smile.  She told us about her excitement in regards to the church and was glad we were attending.  She asked if we had moved to the area recently and was told we were simply passing through on vacation.  I really can’t explain the drastic shift from that point.  We were directed to a seat but the conversation ended abruptly.  While sitting, several people (most were later learned to be staff) came by and welcomed us.  They were very cordial and mentioned the ministries of the church, kid’s programs, etc.  But upon learning we were over 500 miles from home, they moved on to others.

Please understand, I know there are several things to get done before worship.  A staff’s time is limited.  But at the same time, the way the conversations ended was disheartening.  They all ended upon learning we weren’t relocating to town.  We weren’t potential giving units.  We weren’t interested in being on the church rolls.  We were simply there to worship. 

I don’t believe anything was done intentionally.  But here’s my thought:  How does my church react to guests?  Do we see them as someone to use, a potential giving unit, something to get what we want?  Or do we see them as people worshipping with  us who may or may not be led to get involved in the local community?  I understand the principle of dusting your feet.  I realize we shouldn’t spend more time on those who aren’t “ripe for harvest.”  But we shouldn’t treat them simply as consumers either.  What say you?      

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7 Responses to “Consumerism In the Church”

  1. You are absolutely right – we should not see them as potential “givers”… only… or as someone new who might “join the club” – but I think we do get excited about potential “growth” (numbers) of a small church – but again that should not be our only emotion when we do see someone new.

    Opportunities are often missed right there in church. Some come because they are tired of the darkness. Some are hurt. Some are hungry (literally and spiritually). Some need forgiveness. Some may just be curious and some are on vacation.

    But, if I am in prayer about what I need to be to others, the Holy Spirit will prompt me – I am sure of it – to the needs of my visitors. Should I be so bold as to welcome them and then ask if there is anything I could pray about for them? Should I offer my email address and cell number should they ever be in need of anything, I will be available (regardless of the miles)? I think yes and yet, I shy away from this chance to be what God wants me to be. Why? Because its all about me Sunday and often all about those numbers… and it should not be.

    I think those people that met with you at their church had good intentions but that is not the only thing that we as the church should be about. We are God’s children. We are God’s hands and feet – or so we say. I should offer my prayers, my help, my support, and more than anything be in constant prayer about this type of opportunity especially for those that come into the four walls where I go to worship. This post has helped me to realize this truth and to begin to be in prayer about this. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Diane Chilson Says:

    Look with a spiritual eye and heart, I am with Maria, missed opportunities, who am I to be any more worthy than the person/people who just entered the church. God also gives us networking opportunities with our brothers and sisters in Christ. That person who came through the door may have been sent to bless us.Could it be that I am more in need of that person than they are of me, Give God the lead. 🙂

  3. Leah Alexander Says:

    Best rule of thumb in my opinion, is remember church buildings and things done in the name of the “church” are for the Lord. Each time someone at church or in a church related activity does something we are representing Christ-we are serving Him. Some service is just bad and that includes those who claim to be servants and representatives of Christ. Some Christians are ok with one star treatment, while others believe five star treatment is not only necessary, but also a gift to the Lord who gave all for us.

  4. Leah Alexander Says:

    I thought I was done with my comment, but I need to add this…….how did stores and resturants compare to the reception you and your family received when someone mentioned you was passing through?
    I ask because in my experience (my ex was a truck driver and we were able to travel a lot) I noticed if one of my kids mentioned they weren’t from some place we were at people tended to give even more care and hospitality than before. I hate to say it, but I’ve often been treated nicer by strangers than I have fellow Christians.

    • Just a couple of things Leah: We (mankind) are created for community/relationship. First we have relationship with God through Jesus. And then with one another. The point I was trying to make is relationship is relegated to the idea of only if we get something. In other words, we’re selfish.

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