Exactly a year ago I blogged “The church member – a Consumer, Customer or a Community?” (see Aug 29 2014).
Then a few days ago, I was led to revisit this issue, and googled on the Consumer Church. The results were more than I expected. Many others have written on this, mainly on the state of the churches and culture in the west. A sampling is appended below:
“When you read the Gospels, it’s hard to overlook the fact that Jesus attracted large crowds everywhere he went. He was constantly playing to the consumer instincts of his crowds. Let’s face it: It wasn’t the content of his messages that appealed to the masses. Most of the time they didn’t even understand what he was talking about … People flocked to Jesus because he fed them, healed them, comforted them, and promised them things.” “We are unapologetically attractional. In our search for common ground with unchurched people, we’ve discovered that, like us, they are consumers. So we leverage their consumer instincts.”—Andy Stanley in Deep and Wide (from http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2015/april-online-only/dangers-of-consumer-church.html)
I am not a sociologist, theologian or pastor to dwell deeply or intelligently into the merits of such phenomena and practices. But I am concerned to try to discern what is excellent, pure and blameless from what is good (Phil 1:10).
There are principles and practices that are good and wise in the secular sense, but as people belonging to God and living out spiritual values and realities, we need to discern and differentiate the wisdom and practices that are spiritual, secular and satanic (cf James 3:13… and the following scriptural passages)
1 Cor 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Col 1: 9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Purity in Message, Motives, Ministry and Methods
And last night, my son-in-law and daughter shared how they were asked to serve in a minor leadership roles in their church. We discussed at length about issues faced by “operating” ministries in churches today, and my rejoinder was that as we belong to God’s spiritual organic church and not a secular organization, we must flesh out spiritual values, principles, pattern and practices. At all times, the biblical framework must be our operational manual. Paul’s life, message, motives, ministry and methods were pure, as indicated in 1 Thessalonians 2 (see blog entry on June 2013 – Motives and methods in ministry
The above is just the background to what I really want to think through.
Many years ago, I asked another daughter whether she would attend Joel Osteen’s meetings in her city. She would not, and said that people had to purchase tickets to attend, and she wondered why should people pay to listen to the gospel. Two months ago, I informed her that her previous pastor would be touring the U.S. again, and asked her to schedule to fly either to New York or Texas to attend, while waiting for the details. We talked about this again three days ago, and she said that since the friends she contacted would not be travelling with pastor to go over, she will not attend the Grace Revolution USA Tour 2015. She was looking forward to commune and engage with fellow believers! Otherwise, she said, it would be just like attending a concert, a talk, a meeting, and not relating and bonding meaningfully with brethren as a community.
I had watched the live streaming of Jacob Prasch preaching in a small church in Devore. I just marvell at how technology has enabled me to listen to him live, and how a small church freely let people around the world consume the message, for freely they have received, and freely they gave to the community. And then the recording would be released in Youtube, Vimeo etc, for the equipping of the saints who can tune in anytime and anywhere. No restriction for people to consuming (The Bread of Life, the Fountain of Living Waters), for His Word are freely received, and as such freely shared. No necessity and agenda for recordings to be made, no marketing for customers – only a community to share with.
When the pilgrims from beyond Israel attended the feasts in Jerusalem, it made sense for them to travel only with currencies instead of towing sheep and doves and rams all the way from Syria, Egypt, Rome etc. So it was legitimate, wise and convenient to exchange their currency to shekels and purchase the animals for the temple sacrifice. Yet our Lord Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers. “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual”
Secular or spiritual wisdom in our message, motives, ministry and methods? The mandate is spiritual.
Upside? Downside? Solutions? Cautions? – to quote Richard Dahlstrom, pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle when he wrote in http://www.patheos.com/blogs/richarddahlstrom/2010/05/05/being-a-church-in-a-consumer-culture/
Should churches view members and attendees as customers to promote their merchandise or as consumers of the Word of Life, or as communers in the community of the King?