As I sit down to write this, it is a little past lunch time here. Choosing where to eat for lunch can get a bit overwhelming at times, especially when you have a group of people all trying to choose together. Everyone has different tastes, different food allergies, and different tolerances with regard to price. When our church staff tries to go out for lunch together, we use special dice to decide for us. That way, we can all be disappointed together.
Having so many choices is a product of our consumer capitalist culture. Even in a small town like Greencastle, Indiana, we have a variety of food options each catering to different tastes and price points. This is great when you are looking for a place to eat; however, this mindset has sadly infiltrated the Church too.
America is a consumer culture. Consumers want the most value for the lowest cost. “Do I buy the more expensive product in the hopes that it lasts longer, or do I buy the cheaper product knowing it might break sooner?” Business that want to compete will go out of their way to offer deals and sales in order to attract business. Sadly, churches will do this too.
When a consumers look for a church, they bring their consumer mindset with them. “Which church gives me the most value for the lowest cost? Which church is going to have the biggest impact on my kids, my marriage, my life all while asking the least amount of commitment from me personally?” And churches will cater to this mindset.
- People don’t like long sermons, better limit it to 15 minutes.
- People don’t like to make commitments, better to offer 4-6 week studies.
- People don’t like to volunteer, better to ask the minimum amount possible.
We try to reach consumers using consumer tactics hoping that they will then turn around and become disciples.
But the path of a disciple is not the path of the consumer. The path of the disciple is the hard, narrow way, not the broad and easy road. It is the way of the cross, not the way of the crown. Jesus commanded us to the count the cost of following Him, not discount it for easy access.
When it comes to making disciples in the Kingdom of God, we need long term, intentional, committed relationships that are unafraid of going through the messiness of life together. Bait and switch with consumer tactics will not and have not worked.