Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Consumers or Community?

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was reading "I Sold My soul on eBay".  It was a quick read and I finished it in the one day. It was an alright book, I appreciated his input though I did not find much of it very insightful.  He did address one item, that caught my attention, comparing a particular church with a movie theatre. I think it resonated with me because I have found myself thinking the same thing from time to time. I've decided for today's post to share this short passage from His book along with a quick reflection.

"When the band started playing, it was just after the 8:30 start time, but there were fewer than forty people in the church.  But by the time the band had finished singing and the pastor got up on stage, the crowd had more than doubled in size.  I noticed families with young children walking in without any visible indications of guilt.  I wouldn't think the people at this church were purposely rude, so they must have a good reason for showing up late.  Was the music so unimportant to them that they decided to come only for the "main event"?  If that's the case, is church more like a movie theatre where you can walk in after the previews and no one thinks anything of it?  I've always thought the previews are vital to the movie experience, though, just as I would assume singing is important to church service.  Furthermore, in a small community church such as this one, I imagine people would know one another better than at a larger church.  The people in the congregations, therefore, might know the people on stage who were singing and would surely respect them enough to show up on time.  I didn't see that respect being shown, though."

Hemant went on to say this at the closing of his book. "Speaking of those who walk into church late, I want to know why they do so.  Not everyone gets stuck in traffic.  If church is so important, there is no reason to walk in late.  In fact, if going somewhere to worship God is important, then people should arrive early." 

I loved his last line, because it eludes to the fact that church is not about us, it is about God.  It is about worshipping God and learning to grow in His image so that we can love Him and others better.  Church is a community of believers who share like beliefs and come together to worship God,  bringing Him glory as they edify one another and go out having been equipped and enabled to serve others. 

When we make church about us we treat it like a product. As a result we end up becoming consumers rather than a community, taking what we want and leaving the rest.  This is evident in the actions of those Hemant referenced in his book.   They were not interested in joining the community to worship God through song, and and as a result the sense of community was lessened. Even leadership can sometimes fall into the trap of marketing their church like a product to be consumed, concerned first with appeasing the people in the pews, rather than guiding them in how to best glorify our Holy God.

Perhaps we would all do well to remember that the end user of all our worship, offerings, sermons, songs, outreach and evangelism is God.  Is God well pleased when we show up late, without excuse, to the Sunday celebrations created to honour Him?  Is He well pleased when we water down His word in order to appease a crowd?  I'm thinking that a church that develops a marketing plan that recognizes God as the end user, would see substantial growth as a result.  An increase would definitely be evident in the size of the hearts of those in attendance and probably an increase in the church size as well.

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