i’ve been following an interesting debate on the blogosphere.
skye jethani (who seems to be a really bright guy who loves jesus) wrote a book called “the divine commodity” in which he cites a quote from “simply strategic growth” by tim stevens and tony morgan (two guys who seem to be really bright and who love jesus). here’s what skye wrote:
These pastors, representative of so many contemporary Christians, believe that God changes lives through the commodification and consumption of experiences. If our worship gatherings are energetic, stimulating, and exciting enough then people will attend, receive what’s being communicated, and be spiritually transformed. The justification for this approach is simple: people won’t come to a church that’s boring. And what qualifies as boring is defined by our consumer/experience economy. But the moment we believe transformation occurs via external experiences, the emphasis of ministry must adjust accordingly. Manufacturing experiences and meticulously controlling staged environments become the means for advancing Christ’s mission. And the role of the pastor, once imagined as a shepherd tending a flock, now conjures images of a circus ringmaster shouting, “Come one, come all, to the greatest show on earth!” In Consumer Christianity, the shepherd becomes a showman.
naturally, stevens and morgan took offense. tim stevens wrote:
What possible expression of corporate worship is not constructed and characterized by external experience? None that I can think of.
tony morgan wrote:
Should we intentionally offer worship gatherings that are dull and boring so no one wants to participate? Should we just show up for worship without preparation? Do we start offering teaching and music and other elements of worship that reflect less than our best effort so that people aren’t attracted to the experience?
tony morgan must have been pretty riled up, because he also addressed the matter in a subsequent post:
Since we do ministry in America in the middle of a very consumer-driven culture, I still believe our weekend services are critical to sharing the Gospel. People who don’t know Christ are consumers before they are convicted and committed Christ-followers. If the weekend service experience isn’t intentional, people who are still consumers will not stay engaged. We can present the Gospel, but they won’t be there to hear it. We can challenge people to become fully-devoted followers of Christ, but they won’t be there to hear that challenge.
here’s my question: isn’t consumerism a bad thing? if you think it is (like i do), then are we serving the kingdom by trying to attract people by using it? wouldn’t that be like using sex to attract people?
merriam-webster defines consumerism as “the promotion of the consumer’s interests.” on next-wave.com, mark riddle echoes this definition when he writes, “The Consumer church might look something like this. The absence of authority–the final authority in the consumer church is the individual attendee…The desire to please the congregation supersedes the desire to please God.”
to what ends should we go to “attract” people to our churches, or do the ends always justify the means? in other words, will we do anything–use any gimmick–as long as it gets butts in the seats? and what kind of advertising would be considered off-limits? i’ve got more on this tomorrow. in the meantime…
what say you?