A while back I came across a faux news article on how a mega-church sent a letter to it’s members telling them that they had to start giving or volunteering in order to continue to attend the church. I posted it on my Facebook page just to see the reactions the fake news story would get. The reactions, needless to say, were very revealing. Most were outraged that a church would actually require something of it’s members. One person actually said that some people didn’t have the money time or ability to give back to their church. These types of reactions caused me to pause and reflect on the detrimental effect that Christian consumerism has had upon the church.
The Fallacy Of Christian Consumerism
Before I go into why Christian consumerism is in fact a very unhealthy attitude in the church, let me spend a moment uncovering the excuses people make concerning their involvement in the church. Everyone has priorities in their life. The problem is that we allow our culture to dictate where we place our priorities. The consumer mentality that pervades every aspect of our culture has entrenched itself in the church and the hearts of believers as well. Let me demonstrate this.
- Have you ever heard someone say “I just don’t have the money to give to the church?” I have found in my own life that it is not that I don’t have the money but that I don’t place giving to my local church as a high enough priority. Now I am not talking about a percentage or a high dollar amount. I am talking about giving anything at all. If you have enough money for Starbucks, McDonalds, or Cable TV, then you have enough money to give something to your local church. You just haven’t made it a priority over those things. Now before you think I am a money grubbing preacher, please consider this. You consume the chair on Sunday. Somebody had to pay for that seat. You consume the heat that you enjoy while worshiping God. Somebody has to pay for that heat. Even a church meeting in a school or a warehouse has to pay for the use of the building. You are benefiting from that use. It is only an entitlement mentality that would not share in the expense of operations.
- What about time? Have you ever heard someone say “I just don’t have the time to volunteer?” Really? No time at all? Are you telling me that all you do is work and sleep? Could it be that you just do not place volunteering high enough on your priority list? Do you have time to watch a TV show? Do you find time to go to the beach or the lake on the weekend? Somebody is volunteering to teach your kids on Sunday. Somebody is showing up early so that you can have that cup of coffee and a doughnut before service on Sunday. Somebody is making sure that you are not worshiping in a dirty building. Somebody is volunteering to watch your baby so you can worship without distraction. You are consuming their services. Is it not right to expect you to give back to those that are giving to you? Or are you just entitled to all of these services?
- The one that really concerns me is when someone says “I don’t have the ability to serve“. Come on! Get Real! Are you trying to tell me you don’t know how to vacuum? You don’t know how to make a cup of coffee? You have never babysitted? Honestly, when people say that, I just shake my head. When I first started interning for the ministry, I was attending the church my uncle pastored. He had me doing all the so called “menial” jobs. After a few weeks of doing that, I asked him “When am I going to get to minister?” His response was very profound and changed my perspective on what was important. He said, “You are!” He then proceeded to hand me a mop and a toilet brush. You may be fooling yourself by saying you don’t have the ability, but you are not fooling God. God is not looking for ability, He is looking for availability.
So now that I have done my best to tick all of you off by uncovering the fallacy of the excuses used, let’s look what consumerism has done to the church.
The Negative Effects Of Christian Consumerism On The Church
Christian Consumerism Turns The Church Into A Show Instead Of A Community
Hollywood tries to get us to come out and watch the latest and greatest show. We reward them by giving our money to those shows that entertain us the most. This mentality has come upon the church. Christian consumers look for the latest and greatest preacher, music, or children’s program. We reward those that give us the “wow” factor and pass by those that may need us the most. We choose our churches based on what we think we need rather than asking God where He needs us. This in turn places pressure on pastors and church boards to come up with the latest and greatest to meet this consumer mentality rather than make disciples who have accepted the cost of serving Jesus and invest into a community of believers.
Christian Consumerism Promotes Church Shopping And Church Hopping
The whole concept of church shopping is contrary to biblical Christianity. The idea of looking for the best “body of Christ” for me is foreign to how Jesus looks upon His church. You cannot love Jesus who is the head of the church if you do not love His people who are His body. You cannot detach the two. So shopping for the one that tickles your fancy is so self centered it is unbelievable. When we are looking for a local church to attend, our prayer should be “Where do you want me Lord?” There has been many times where Jesus has placed me in places that I would not have chosen. He placed me there to be a blessing. He placed me there to learn. He placed me there just to encourage the people who were struggling. Shopping for the best fit for you is a fickle criteria. As soon as you find something that doesn’t fit, you will just go shopping again. You will never grow deep in your relationship with the Lord or with others with that mentality.
Christian Consumerism Promotes An Entitlement Mentality
I find it interesting that many of those that would rail against welfare and entitlements when it comes to government, promote the same mentality in the church. Because of the pressure that Christian consumerism places upon the church we have made Christianity into something that has little or no cost. Just as retail stores lower costs in order to attract more customers, churches have lowered the cost of following Jesus in an effort to gain more converts. This has been a dismal failure. Giving is down. Discipleship is almost non-existent. The influence of the church in our society has waned into irrelevance.
People who feel they are entitled to something do not value it. Because of Christian consumerism and it’s belief that they are entitled to everything the church has to offer, they do not value what the church really has to offer. The worship of God is just an event like watching Superman. Learning the principles of Christian living is just another piece of information they can get for free anywhere thus church attendance is not valued. Compare this entitlement mentality to the words of Jesus.
23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me
It sound like to me that Jesus understood that people value that which costs a lot. Christian consumerism was not part of His vocabulary. A long time ago a friend of mine spoke these words to me. “Ask not what your church can do for you, instead ask what you can do for your church.” I think now may be the time those words were spoken by me.
About the Author:
Pastor Duke Taber has been a believer in Jesus for 33 years. He has been a pastor for over 20 years currently serving at the Vineyard church in Pine Haven Wyoming and was formerly the secretary treasurer of White Pine County Ministerial Association. He is an alumnus of LIFE Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. Pastor Duke publishes a Christian living magazine called Taber's Truths and is the owner ofChristian Faithbook.