Consumer Christianity

I want to feature guest writer Edward Fudge’s comments on the consumer mentality that has undoubtedly contributed to the decline of kingdom growth. — Dwight

Edward Fudge

The modern generation, we are told, looks at church through consumer eyes. They are spiritual shoppers, going from one congregation to another, inspecting the “merchandise” for quality, comparing elements of convenience, service and cost. Churches that wish to grow (or even to survive) are expected to be customer-oriented, ever-happy providers dispensing whatever satisfies the public and makes the shoppers content.

It is certainly biblical and desirable to care about people and to serve others joyfully in the name of Christ. It is also wise to try to learn the language of those with whom we wish to speak. But the whole concept described above, I suggest, tragically bypasses the gospel and distorts the New Testament picture of church as God intends it. Consumer Christianity caters to selfishness and, by rewarding it, fosters more of the same. It ignores Jesus’ call to repentance, dispenses with commitment and thwarts discipleship. It forgets the primary agenda of the church, which is announcing the gospel and making imitators of Christ. Jesus does not invite us to buy a ticket and demand good service. He calls us to deny self, to put others ahead of self, to serve rather than to be served.

The church is not benefitted, long-term, by dumbing-down its teaching, trashing its heritage of hymns and freewheeling its prayers — all in hopes of attracting someone who might otherwise encounter something he or she does not understand. Growth that counts, and endures, comes when hearts are convicted of sin, turn to Christ for forgiveness, and answer God’s call to serious discipleship within the loving faith-family of mutual responsibility, mutual service and mutual support.

So long as we imagine that the church’s job is making people happy, that its mission is accomplished primarily on the premises, or that its work can be carried out by paid ministry and staff, we are doomed to unending frustration, worn-out workers and complaining customers. The solution is ancient and costly: “Repent and believe the gospel.” “Take up your cross and follow Me.” “Each one should use whatever spiritual gift he has received to serve others . . . with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” As we do that, God in his sovereignty will see to needed growth.



Filed under Change Agent, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching, Religion

4 responses to “Consumer Christianity

  1. curtismchale

    It is hard in a throw away society not to just throw away a church that has lost its way. We easily move on and look for another church instead of sticking through the hard times and working with the church to bring it to new life. We need to be in it for the long haul, for the good, bad, and the ugly. We need to expect the hard challenging messages and if they don’t come hold our pastors accountable for the lack of depth. We need people in the church to stand up and make these hard calls.

  2. dwhitsett

    It has been my experience and that of so many others that established churches are resistant to change. This is true even when without substantive changes they will die. It is like throwing a life raft to a drowning person who rejects it and drowns. It is like the anorexic who cannot see that he or she is wasting away.
    It is one of the most frustrating and helpless feelings in the world to be a lone voice (or one of very few) crying in the wilderness to those who will not hear.
    I have come to the conclusion that if you are calling to God’s people and they refuse to heed that it is better just to start over and do it right the next time. The very ones who should be holding the leadership accountable are not accountable to the very Lord who sent us to tell the world about Him.

  3. Dwight, I don’t recall asking you this but have you ever served the Lord’s Church as an elder?

  4. dwhitsett

    Yes, served as an elder years ago and been an unofficial pastor off and on in various places.

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