Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions An Obituary for the American Church

An Obituary for the American Church

CONSUMERISM

We live in a culture that revolves around consuming. Every TV commercial, every store, every credit card company, every bank, every TV show or movie, every piece of clothing, car, or product, every Web site, every restaurant…every everything is tailored to fit your desires, needs, or personal preference. We are easily infuriated when things don’t happen exactly as we want them. We exist in a place that implicitly says: “We are here to serve you and meet your every whim and desire. Let us take care of you.” What’s more, it’s never enough. Eventually, the house or the car gets older, and we want new ones. The clothes aren’t as fashionable, and we want something more in style. That restaurant is getting boring; we must find another. Our favorite TV show is wearing thin, so the search begins for the next favorite. And on and on and on.

This is how we are wired to think in the United States. And it is all backed up by this rationale: You’re worth it. You deserve to have what you want, how you want it, when you want it. And for the most part, the church plays the exact same game. As pastors and church leaders, we do as best we can to provide as comfortable an experience as humanly possible, using every means at our disposal to attract people (and then keep them). So we tailor what we do around their wants and desires. That’s Marketing 101, right? The problem is at the end of the day, the only thing Jesus is counting is disciples. That’s it. He doesn’t seem to care too much about converts, attendance, budgets, or buildings. It’s about disciples. And by nature, disciples are producers, not consumers. Yet most of our churches are built around feeding consumers.

I’d argue 90 percent of the church’s time, energy, and resources are linked to attracting people. But unfortunately, the means you use to attract people are usually the means you must use to keep them. In other words, if you use consumerism to attract people to your church, you will need to continue using consumer-oriented practices to keep them—or else they will find another church to meet their “needs.” But that consumer mentality is antithetical to the Gospel and to the call of discipleship.

Question: In what ways is your church community using consumerism as the means to draw people to a Gospel that is, in and of itself, anti-consumerism?

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Mike leads 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church. He and his wife, Sally, have three children.