consuming church

i was driving home from work yesterday and noticed that an area church had recently acquired and put out a beautiful new sign. and then i started thinking about that.

churches tend to:

  • put out a new sign to say “here we are”
  • hire a firm to develop a beautiful new website “so people can find us easier on the web”
  • add a marquis to their new sign to say “look what programs we have for you here”
  • hire a marketing firm…”so we can let everyone know who we are, where we are, what we do so they can become part of us

do we really have to market church? really? “we” do all these things to draw “them” in: offer different programs, different worship “styles”, stellar children/youth programs (especially children because we all know the way to the parents is through their children). it sounds more and more like a sleazy sells tactic. market yourself to get people in the door, present everything you have and then close the deal before they leave. you have to sell the product. in reality, maybe the “product” (and i abhor using that word for this) can actually sell itself…

two things.

1. we live in a consumerist society. yes. i know that. i am a guilty member (though in rehab) of it. but church is not up for consumption. that’s not what Jesus had in mind i don’t think. church is to develop community, provide support and fellowship and provide a place to continue to work out our personal and collective faith with fear and trembling. instead, we’ve repackaged and upgraded church to the point that it’s hardly recognizable as anything more than another product on the market for public consumption. maybe that’s why a lot of people don’t like to go to church anymore. it’s no different than any other company that sells you a product or offers some sort of specialized service. it’s not set apart from the rest of society. instead it caters to it and becomes a huge money-making, marketing scheme. (have you really paid attention to a good bit of the crap in the christian bookstores lately?)

2. we spend more time in church and trying to get other people to come to our churches than we do going to where the people are. we are so consumed by growth and numbers (even those who say they aren’t really are a little bit…you can’t escape institutional context and mentality) instead of being among the people and meeting the needs of the people where they (and thereby extension we) are. and can we really try to stop using all this us/them language? (i realize it’s all over the place here…that was intentional…it starts to sound pretty exclusionary and, well, ridiculous after a while) because if we really believe what we say–that we are all created in the image of God and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ–then there is no us/we and them. there is only us and we. and aren’t we responsible for our family members? shouldn’t we be checking on everyone in the family to see what they need? because chances are, it’s not another church-product to consume.

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