Your church is not a restaurant: the customer service mentality and its danger to the American church

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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.

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.

Originally published February 26, 2018

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe! 

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.

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Categories: Christian living, Church, Commentary, Culture

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6 replies

  1. Ha! Exactly, well said. I work in a restaurant.

    • Thanks so much! And thanks for sharing the idea! I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, and I know how they bend over backwards to make people happy. Obviously our churches should strive to be welcoming and inviting but I think we so often get trapped in trying to please everyone that a lot of churches sort of sell out.

  2. Excellent post. I really love what you said about being the You in Unity. So many people walk away from church for ridiculous reasons, as you stated. Then there are those that do stay but are unwilling to contribute to the success of the ministry. Instead the become a source of apathy in the church or worse a source of disunity! But the body of Christ has to start focusing on Christ and not on us.

    • Thanks so much for commenting and for your perspective. To your point, sadly we so often get comfortable in church and lose sight of the mission which is to grow as disciples and make disciples. It’s a major problem and can be hard to rectify as people often want to focus on what’s comfortable.

  3. Good post, however some people do go to certain churches because the church meet a need they may have and I do not believe their is nothing wrong with that. For example, a single mother might have a need for the nursery or children’s church, so she can have time to herself for the one hour and spend time with God and hear his word, away from her children. The single mother’s need is not selfish. A men’s ministry may be important to some men as well as a youth ministry for children. Churches have different ministries to meet the needs of different people. Some people that visit some churches are not looking at it from a consumer perspective.

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