Consumer Christianity and Sunday Morning Products

heart-band

“Consumer Christianity” is the Americanized brand of an extrabiblical, self-centered gospel. The come-and-see model of ministry we’ve developed over the past 100 years has produced several generations of Christians who assume that church is about them, for them, and because of them. So they shop around. Churches work so hard at having the best music, the most dynamic preacher, the most comfortable facility, the coolest kids programs, and the most up-to-date technology in their worship services. There is constant pressure on the church leadership toward these expectations. And when the church is not “meeting our needs” or “living up to our expectations,” we shop around… Consumer Christianity.

This vastly unbiblical phenomenon drives pastors and church leaders insane. It’s often this very issue that leads them to burn-out. The pressure is unreal in a consumer-based Christian culture. But what if we pastors are only sleeping in the bed we’ve made for ourselves? What if we have no one else to blame? What if we have a consumer-driven Christian culture because we’ve been selling a product instead of embodying a mission?

For so long our come-and-see, attraction-based model of ministry has compelled us to put everything we have into the Sunday morning experience. Come up with an excellent product. Promote that product. Invite people to come experience that product. Expect them to return weekly and buy into (or sell-out for) that product. But is the Sunday morning experience really the product we should be selling to our people?

The weekly worship time is vital to the Christian life. It is something we are not to fall into the habit of staying away from, as the author of Hebrews instructs us (Hebrews 10:25). But when I read the Bible and immerse myself into the 1st Century Christian culture, I can’t help but notice that Christianity was not about a weekly worship experience. It was about a daily life-style of submission to God and service to one another, coupled with a progressive, radical change from the old man into the new man. It was about the church not just gathering as the church, but scattering as the church, too.

The Sunday morning worship time is very important. But biblical Christianity cannot be wrapped up into a Sunday morning experience. Pastor, how can we complain about consumer-driven Christianity when for so long we have been selling nothing more than a Sunday morning product? 

Being a Christ-follower is not about selling a product. It’s about embodying a mission. Not my mission, but God’s mission… a mission for the redemption of lost souls through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Instead of phrases like “come and see” or “powerful worship experience,” maybe we need to start using words like, “mobilize,” “release,” and “go.”

Gathering regularly as the Body of Christ is vital to following Jesus. But we are not to be in the business of selling this regular corporate experience – as some kind of product – to a consumer base with self-centered, vacillating preferences. We are to be embodying the mission of our Lord while equipping, resourcing, and mobilizing our people to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Grace and Peace,

Tony

3 thoughts on “Consumer Christianity and Sunday Morning Products

  1. Well said! I would only insert that the “[W]words like, “mobilize,” “release,” and “go” must be preceded by “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)” The “reason for the hope” is not, “I go to such and such a church, come visit us sometime.” The Post-Christian culture of today knows little of right and wrong, the Ten Commandments or church attending, nuclear families of the past. However, “made in His image” is humanity and “… his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20 ESV) is the approach we should have to discipleship and evangelization.
    This is actually a good thing as it forces those of us Christians who tend to be marginal and on the sidelines of discipleship to “man-up” and say in plain English that we are all sinners, need a Saviour and need to apply that forgiveness personally because it is “my sin, and my guilt” that needs to be cleansed. No matter how pragmatic or agnostic modern man is, he still knows he does wrong daily and needs something to cleanse him from the guilt.
    Churchy people of today are just that, Churchy People who know they are “supposed to “go and tell” but like a three-year-old child who is constantly told, “Behave!” they really don’t know what to do. To a toddler, what does “behave” mean? Little ones understand, “stop talking, sit still, be quiet, come here, don’t run,” but behave is not understood in a stand-alone etymology to a child. That word must be braced by the underpinning of obedience that is specific and personal. Most adults don’t know what to do when told to “go and tell.” Like small children, we all need to know what it means to “behave” as evangelicals by the reasons for the hope we have within us. That is, we all need to know the foundation and apologetics for a defence of the hope we have before we go and tell.
    “Dancing ponies” and other marketing gimmicks are used to draw numbers to the church, but just as culpable are the marketing numbers used to project the “need” and grow a “monster church” through guilt driven hyper-evangelism. The demographics of the local area and their “needs” can already be known by all from the beginning of the Canon of Scripture. I’ve been part of churches in “high cotton” and churches serving the “salt of the earth” and the message is exactly the same for both. There is also little difference in the delivery of the Gospel to either by clear and systematic theological training. The need is everywhere and at all times so this article is spot-on with, “[It’s] about a daily life-style of submission to God and service to one another, coupled with a progressive, radical change from the old man into the new man.” This covers everyone and we don’t need a “Four Spiritual Laws” check off list or anxious bench at the front of the church to “process” folks into the Kingdom. God uses all forms of dispersion of the Gospel from street preaching and visitation to a “daily life-style of submission to God and service to one another.”
    It is so refreshing to hear unapologetic criticism of our “churchy culture” of today. I just need to learn better how to give a defence of my hope with gentleness and respect.

Comments are closed.