It has been a while since I wrote anything on my blog. But, I am hoping to get back into it over the next few weeks and months. In order to help me, I thought I would begin on a small series on challenges the church faces. I love the church. Jesus loves the church. I believe the church is His plan to advance His kingdom here on earth. I also believe the church has real challenges. My goal to seek to describe some of them. I will not address them all. You might think of others that I will not mention. But my hope is that this little series will help me and others love the church more deeply, be committed to the church more fully, and work hard together to make the church all it is suppose to be to the glory of Christ.
Being a consumer-driven church and/or person is a challenge for the church as a whole, as well as, for individual believers. Consumer-driven church is a subtle, yet dangerous way to evaluate, judge, or even search for a church. Yet, it is a slippery slope that we can easily fall down.
Consumer-driven questions from a church’s perspective
Did the people leave satisfied? Are we offering the right kind of programs in order to attract more people? Did the music leave chills down their spine? Was the message entertaining enough? Did we give them what they wanted? Are we offering better services than the other church across town? How is our customer service? How was the performance?
Consumer-driven questions from a believer’s perspective
Does this church have the programs I want? Are the worship times convenient for me? Is there enough parking so I do not have to walk too far? Is the music the style I prefer? Do the messages entertain me? Are the kids’ and youth programs good enough for my kids? Is there coffee? Are the chairs comfortable? Does the church down the road offer better services for me and my family? Do they expect me to serve or to give? Did it make me feel good?
In the business world, satisfying the customer is a key to success. In order to satisfy customers, offering the right product at the right price is imperative, especially if you want them to return and become faithful consumers. Brand is also a key. The people need to come to you because of who you are, what you offer, and how you are not like the other guys. There is great pressure to convince the target audience that your brand is better and will satisfy them much more than the competitor.
As consumers, we want the best product for the best price. For some people, customer service is vital. Others, price is most important. Still some prefer a clean store, nice staff, and clean product presentation. We choose our places of business by what appeals to us. We want to walk out of the store satisfied with the product we bought and the financial expenditure we made. While some are loyal to certain brands, others switch their loyalties the moment they have a bad experience. Truth is, we all fit somewhere in this spectrum because we are all consumers.
While we are all consumers, it is a dangerous thing to transfer a consumer mentality into the church. It is dangerous because it misses the point of being a church and being part of a church. The church is not a business seeking to offer the best product possible in order to draw in the most clientele or greatest percentage of the target audience. Neither is the church a store to shop in, nor is it a place where we try on its products to see if they fit or not. To engage a church with this kind of thinking comes from self-centredness and propels us down a path where we will never be satisfied, no matter the church we seek to attend. For a church to function like a business feeds this “me first” mind-set and produces critical members who will continually be unsatisfied until they get the next “high” from their “worship experience”. Like a drug addict, the next high has to be better and more fulfilling. So the church, like Apple, has to keep producing better iPhones with better applications or they will lose their «faithful» followers. Most were satisfied with the iPhone 5, until they came out with the iPhone 6. After that, the iPhone 5 was considered a thing of the past. And if you had an iPhone 4, you were laughed at. Unfortunately, many churches have fallen into a similar thinking, and many Christians evaluate churches by the same mentality. It often becomes about bigger and better stuff, greater appeal, more comfortable, etc. This has hurt the effectiveness and mission of the church. We as believers need to be aware of this danger and truly reevaluate biblically what is a church and why we are to be intimately part of one.
So how do we as followers of Christ and as His church confront this challenge in a market-driven and consumer-focused world? In answering this question, I can confess that it is not easy to do. Honestly, I like when things are about me, for me, and made for me. Everything in my selfish human sinful nature screams for the church to be about me, and serve me. But, as followers of Jesus we must go to Him (the head of the church) in order to help us understand His view of church so that we make it about what He makes it about: Himself.
I was listening to a podcast earlier this week and I heard this definition of a local church. It may not be the best definition, but the speaker took this definition from Ephesians 4:1-16. I think he did a good job unpacking the Scriptures which leads us to see this definition as true.
«A local body of baptized believers joined together under biblical leadership to grow in the likeness of Christ and express the love of Christ to each other and to the world around them.»
So, as a church, or as a follower of Jesus, if we are to combat against the customer-driven church, we must pursue to be a church and be a part of a church that is faithful first and foremost to Jesus. So, here are some of my thoughts, taken from the definition above. With each point are two others ones. One for the church. One for the person looking for a church. Again, this is not exhaustive nor complete. I am just trying to provoke thought. For myself, and others who might read this.
- A church is a group of people who have made a public confession of Christ as their Lord and Savior, and seek to publicly live out their faith on a daily basis.
- We want to be a church that calls people to outwardly live out their faith.
- We want to be a part of a church that calls us to apply faithfully God’s word on a daily basis.
- A church is a family, joined together, in covenant together (like a marriage) for the purpose of glorifying God together.
- We want to be a church that calls people who profess Christ publicly and to commit together publicly (in using the marriage theme: for better or for worse). We want people to be a part of our family of faith because we love them, not because we offer them a service.
- We want to be a part of a church that places a high value on being committed to one another and calls us to be committed to the church body. We want to be a part of a family. We want a church that calls us to love the church to the point of commitment to the body (local and universal body).
- A church is led by biblically qualified and God called leadership for the purpose of teaching faithfully God’s word and shepherding the church to faithfully obey and love Christ.
- We want to be a church that does not focus on gimmicks to get people in the door, or tricks to keep them there, but a church that faithfully teaches God’s word by those called by God to do so. We also want to be a church that equips each member to teach God’s word to others.
- We want to be a part of a church where God’s word is faithfully being taught by leaders called by God and we want to be called to obey God’s word because we love the Lord. We also want to be encouraged to teach God’s word to others.
- A church is a unperfect family, made of sinners saved by grace, who are seeking together to live more and more faithful to Christ each day in order to glorify Him.
- We want to be a church that pursues holiness, yet is patient with sinners. We want to keep the standards of the Christian life in line with God’s word, yet understanding that we all fall short of that standard. We want to make the love of Christ and the love for Christ our main characteristic.
- We want to be a part of a church that calls us to keep the standard of God’s word, yet helps me when I fail to do so. We want to be part of a family that will not abandon me, but help me grow in my faith that I may glorify Christ. We want to be part of a church that does its best to show the love of Christ and calls me to do the same.
- A church is a group of followers of Jesus, who have publicly identified with Him in baptism and are publicly covenanted together, under biblical leadership, in order to make the excellencies of His marvelous grace known to their community and world.
- We want to be a church that is missional, Christ-focused, and that makes proclaiming the gospel of high importance.
- We want to be a part of a church that seeks its best to make the gospel known to all nations, and calls me to be a part of it. We want to be a part of a missional church because Christ is missional and we want to follow Him.
So, church is not about having the right experience, or finding the one with the Starbucks inside. It is not about programs, comfortable chairs, electrifying music, or making me feel good. I do not claim that my points above are exhaustive. There is so much more to say. My goal in this post is simply to point out a danger we have as believers and help us in a small way see things maybe a bit differently, or remind us of things we may have forgotten. If we as the church make appealing to the consumer-driven mentality our goal, we will produce consumer-driven people who will stay with us until someone else offers them a better show. Let us be honest, when it comes to quality of music, sound, and theater, we cannot compete with Hollywood. And that should not bother us. Preach & worship Christ. Love people. Be family. Live missional.