Your church is not a restaurant: the mentality of consumerism and its danger to the American church


In America, where we have so many options with everything, every business with which we interact lives and dies on our satisfaction.

And we often treat churches in much the same way. Like it’s just another business that we’re patronizing. Where if you’re not happy with a church, if you decide you don’t like something about a church, it’s become so easy just to uproot and go to the next church.

It’s coming from a consumeristic mindset where we want the experience to revolve around us.Your church is not some restaurant. It’s the body of Christ in the world, working for the Lord’s purposes.

There can be very legitimate things which people in a church should oppose. If a pastor or leaders in a church are straying from God’s word, their feet need to be held to the fire for that. But so many divisions within churches, so many causes of disunity are not over major theological issues.

People leave churches because the music is too competmporary or not contemporary enough.

People leave churches because they don’t like the choir robes, or because the choir doesn’t have robes. People leave churches because they don’t like the new carpeting.

People leave because no one introduced themselves, or because too many people introduced themselves (“don’t these people have any boundaries?!”).

People leave churches because they don’t like the time of a service, they don’t like that a service time changed, they don’t like the new color of the carpeting or paint.

People leave churches because the pastor is “too Biblical” in his preaching. Whatever that means.

I once heard a man share a story about a pastor who disallowed a Buddhist to open the service with a prayer. The pastor was accused of being racist against Asians (despite having a Japanese wife!)

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the Church, for everything you do or don’t do, someone might get upset and quit going.

And again, I’m not discounting there are times when people legitimately should find a new church.

But the problem is when they find a church that plays the right style of music or that has the right kind of carpeting, if we are approaching the church with selfish ambition, if we are making our church experience about ourselves, how it serves us, how it helps us, and discounting how we can serve the Church, how we can do life within the Church, how we can grow together as the Church, that kind of person is so often so susceptible to just continuing that cycle.

And you’ll never truly be plugged in anywhere.

There is no perfect church. The Bible is clear about that. Because churches are full of imperfect people.

Rather than always looking for a reason to turn your tail and run away, be the you in unity.

Unity cannot exist in a Church with people who are only looking out for themselves. Where people are takers.

In Philippians 2:4, Paul says: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Instead of asking what the church can do, be the you in unity in your church. If you look at it from a consumeristic perspective, there’s a high likelihood you’re not actually plugged in to doing ministry in the church. And if you’re a Christian, just as much as the pastor, the worship leader, the missionaries it sends out you also have a way to serve, have gifts from God, and a ministry that you should be serving in.

So instead of looking for a church that fits some aesthetic preferences, find one where you agree theologically, and get to work for the mission of Christ in the world in building up his church.

Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.

Categories: Church, Commentary, Culture

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