In an effort to reach the lost, many churches have adopted a consumer mentality. Here’s the simple model being employed: 1) Find out what the “unchurched” want out of church. 2) Customize worship to cater to their desires. It’s a simple strategy; one that has been proven effective in some areas. It’s Burger King Church. Have it your way. As a result, many churches have become businesses that measure success by the number of customers they attract. And how do you attract more customers? By meeting their demands. By making the consumer feel as comfortable as possible. You offer them the items on their shopping list.
There are some fundamental flaws with a consumer-driven strategy as it applies to the church. First of all, worship is for the saints. Where in New Testament scripture do we find that worship was to be geared toward the “unchurched?” Yes, the Church was intended to be the agency by which the story of salvation is to be told, but worship is for those “in Christ.” Although, worship can be an attraction for those who are lost in sin, the sole purpose of New Testament worship was not evangelism. The purpose of worship was to praise God and to edify His people. We would hope that our assemblies pique the interest of those who are searching for salvation, but we cannot dismiss God’s wishes for the purpose of catering to the masses. Worship is for God, first and foremost, which means He calls the shots, not us. He is the audience, not us. Therefore, He determines what takes place in worship, not us.
Secondly, a consumer-driven mentality naturally lends itself to a softer stance on sin. Take a cursory glance at the religious landscape today. Many of your mega-churches with mega-preachers have shied away from the truth of God’s word in favor of cotton candy theology. When the goal is numbers, truth often gets compromised, or ignored completely. The spiritual bar gets lowered so that everyone can jump over it. Any topic that might be deemed “offensive” or “divisive” is avoided at all costs. Everyone must be kept happy so that they will stay. But, as my good friend Phil Sanders once stated, “It doesn’t matter how big your church is if the devil runs it.” Bodies in the pew should not be the goal. Souls in the kingdom should be the goal.
A third major problem with a consumer-driven church is that it undermines the call of Christ. Worship is NOT about you! Discipleship is NOT about you! Following Christ means saying, “No” to ourselves (Lk. 9:23). Discipleship is about slavery, not consumerism. Peter, Paul, John, Timothy, Jude and James all referred to themselves as a slave or a bond-servant–terms that demand selflessness. Too many people want to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t interfere with their lives. However, discipleship is an all-or-nothing proposition. There is no commitment without a cost, and the cost is YOU!
Are we willing to sacrifice the truth for a full auditorium? Are we more concerned about attendance than we are conversions? Are we more concerned about making consumers than we are disciples?