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HAS CONSUMERISM HAS OVERTAKEN THE CHURCH?

The church at large, for well intended reasons, out of fear of becoming obsolete, began selling the advantages of Christianity. The product became: you can achieve the American dream by taking on all of the advantages that Christ has to offer. The belief has been that if we can be slick, appealing and show that we are a good commodity, worthy of your time, that on the back end we can add in discipleship. We will build something cool and you will come. When you come to consume what we have to offer, we will then do a bait and switch and let you know about the cost of discipleship. The problem is that the evangelical church has failed to estimate the power of consumerism. What it takes to get someone there is what it takes to keep them. People came to be fed and dazzled, not to serve. A small percentage work themselves to the bone, burning people out, to stay the latest and greatest. Why? Because they know that the church down the street will take on being the coolest church in town and people will make a mass exodus to get there. Are we creating disciples or church shoppers? The church does not even have time to develop what Christ teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, because if they do, they loose the time they need to put into entertainment. Did you know that statistics show that 80% of youth active in youth groups today will loose thier faith in college? Why? Becuse in order for youth groups to compete they have to focus more time and energy on being fun. The only way they can quickly sneak in spirituality is to make it emotional. If the youth laugh, cry or feel thier heart strings tugged, then the numbers will grow. The problem is that when the challenges of life hit, they equate spirituality with entertainment and emotionalism. Thus the reverse becomes true for them. What they find in college as entertaining and feeling good becomes their new spitituality. (By the way, the 20% that keep their faith has been found to have two common elements 1. They saw thier parents really active in thier faith (not just Sunday mornings) and 2. they were freinds with their PARENT'S freinds and they saw them active in the faith) The worship services are no different. The messages and songs are shaped around how God improves you and makes you feel good, rather than leading you to a transformed life. Below are some great quotes on this pervasive problem.

"Christians are not the end users of the gospel. This is how Brian McLaren’s opened a discussion of the need for emerging churches to be a community driven by a sense of mission to the world in order to avoid becoming a community seeking to gratify its own self-interest at the expense of the world. The “what’s in it for me” syndrome, McLaren claims, turns the church into a purveyor of religious goods and services designed to keep its own members from shopping around for a church that “meets my needs better.”" (Anderson 2006 p. 178)

“Occasionally, after ‘winning’ people based on personal self-interest, churches can entice people to care a little about the church – but is it any surprise that people ‘won to Christ’ by self-interest come to the church asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Is it any surprise that with this understanding of salvation, churches tend to become gatherings of self-interested people who gather for mutual self-interest – constantly treating the church as a purveyor of religious goods and services, constantly shopping and ‘trading up’ for churches that can ‘meet my needs’ better? Is it any surprise that it’s stinking hard to convince churches that they have a mission to the world when most Christians equate ‘personal salvation’ of individual ‘souls’ with the ultimate aim of Jesus?” (McLaren, Generous Orthodoxy, p107). (Anderson 2006 p. 178)

"The problem for the church in this situation is that it is now forced to compete with all the other ideologies and –isms in the marketplace of religions and products for the allegiance of people, and it must do this in a way that mirrors the dynamics of the marketplace – because that is precisely the basis of how people make countless daily choices in their lives. In the modern and the postmodern situation, the church is forced into the role of being little more than a vendor of religious goods and services. And the end-users of the church’s services (namely, us) easily slip into the role of discerning, individualistic consumers, devouring the religious goods and services offered by the latest and best vendor. Worship, rather than being entertaining through creatively engaging the hearts and minds of the hearers, now becomes mere entertainment that aims at giving he participants transcendent emotional highs, much like the role of the “feelies” in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where people go to the movies merely to get a buzz. (Hirsch, 2006, p. 109-110)

"Ninety percent or more of the people who attend our services are passive. In other words, they are consumptive. They are passive recipients of the religious goods and services being delivered largely by professionals in a slick presentation and service. Just about everything we do in these somewhat standardized services and “box churches,” we do in order to attract participants, and to do this we need to make the experience of church more convenient and comfortable. It is the ultimate religious version of one-stop shopping – hassle-free. But alas, all we are achieving by doing this is adding more fuel to the insatiable consumerist flame. I have come to the dreaded conclusion that we simply cannot consume our way into discipleship. Consumerism as it is experienced in the everyday and discipleship as it is intended in the scriptures are simply at odds with each other. And both aim at the mastery over our lives, only in marketing it’s called brand loyalty or brand community. (Hirsch, 2006, p. 110)