DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Sundays Go to the Highest Bidder

Written by: on February 11, 2020

As the husband grabs his bible and a cup of coffee he yells out to his wife. “Hurry up honey, we’re going to be late for church!”  “Coming!” she responds with her Bible under her arm as she grabs her cup of coffee. “I am looking forward to finishing up this sermon series on the dangers of consumerism within the church”, he explains to his wife. “It has really been an eye opener to see how the church has fallen into the consumer mindset and become so self-focused.” His wife agrees, as they both ease back into their recliners to watch the live stream from their local church, located less than 3 miles away. Though this is a fictitious account something similar happens every Sunday somewhere in America. If I was going to be brutally honest, I would have to admit I have done something similar in the past when fighting sickness or when trying to recover from an over committed lifestyle.

It appears watching church via computer stream from the comfort of your own living room isn’t the only way consumerism has entered the church. At Daytona Beach Drive-In Christian Church in Florida one can visit the church without even leaving their car. All you have to do is tune your radio to the correct channel and listen along with everyone else at the drive in. Even the communion service is in the privacy of your car.  While the instructions are heard over the radio the parishioners partake in the elements provide in little plastic containers holding a sip of juice with wafers attached to the top of the container. For those desiring a more personal touch they can leave their cars and go to what use to be the drive-in concession stand for doughnuts and fellowship.[1] As can be seen the limits of the consumer church model are only limited by one’s imagination and the proposed need it fills. It is often about convenience and personal preference. From seeker services that are more entertainment that substance to drive thru wedding chapels consumer religion is a reality that needs to be faced.

Dr. Jason Clark in his doctoral thesis entitled Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A reparative account and diagnosis of pathogeneses in the relationship when looking at the challenges that Evangelicalism faces as it relates to Capitalism states “Whereas community and religious groups previously met psychological needs, consuming has taken the place of producing well-being.”[2] “This commitment to the agency of the self makes the sustaining of religious communities almost impossible.”[3] According to Vincent Miller when looking at the concept of commodification when we treat religion as a commodity it loses its “power to inform the concrete practices of life.”[4] The problem with consumer religions is “that it does not consist in a definable set of beliefs and ideologies that Christianity can counter. Rather, it is at heart a way of relating to beliefs. So often we think that if we identify the incorrect belief around us, we can counter them with the correct beliefs”[5]

It’s hard to combat a moving target. As innovative ideas increase, and we are inundated with constant change is it almost impossible possible to keep up? What is it that can keep us grounded? What is it about the consumer religion that steals out hearts and lures us away from deep community?  For many the idea of gathering together as believers on Sunday has become optional. It is just one choice among many. In a culture where many youth sports are a main Sunday morning event how does a family support the sporting talents of our children and maintain the priority of Sunday worship? Especially if the right amount of talent can lead to a college scholarship. How did the gathering together as believers go from being the best choice on Sunday mornings to just a mere option? According to Dr. Clark the answer in part lies in understanding the historical church, with all its flaws. With that understanding we don’t ignore the challenges and concerns over the current church process we instead turn our attention to what is being done right. The key is in somehow avoiding a chosen blindness to the mistakes and frailties of the church and not becoming overtly pessimistic and negative about the future of the church. Clark suggests a deeper sense of church. A church that understands the function of the past church and one that is fully present in today’s culture.[6] It is important for churches to bring back a sense of deep community. How can this be done when many aspects of consumerism seem to offer a competing aspect of community? Has the American church become just another social club? Is the answer to offer more and bigger programs? The church is still the barer of the good news of the gospel. Jesus alone is the answer to sin. How can we as Christians embrace the beautiful diversity and depth of the church as a loving community despite its frailties and challenges?

“Wow, that was sure a good word from the pastor today” the husband exclaims as he heads to the kitchen for another cup of coffee. “It was quite convicting!” “Yes, it was” his wife responses. “Hey if we hurry, we can head to the Original Pancake House and beat the church crowd.” “After that maybe we can go shopping in the mall.” “Great idea” the wife agrees. “Did you notice the cute outfit the pastor’s wife had on today! Maybe I can find one in my size.”

[1] http://www.npr.org/2014/03/285278319/roadside-service-drive-in-church-brings-god-to-your-car

[2] Clark, JP. 2018. Evangelicalism and Capitalism: Middlesex University (PhD. Thesis) Retrieved at www.acedemia.edu/39771727/EVANGELICALISM_AND_CAPITALISM_A_reparative_account_and_diagnosis_of_pathogeneses_in_the_realtionship. 182

[3] Clark. 182

[4] Vincent Miller. Consuming Religion. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group. 2005. 12

[5] Scot McKnight, Peter Rollins, Kevin Corcoran and Jason Clark. Church in the Present Tense: A Candid Look at What’s Emerging. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press. 2011. 42

[6] Scot McKnight. 49-50

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

8 responses to “Sundays Go to the Highest Bidder”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Greg,
    This post so captures the heart of evangelicalism here in the states. We’ve created our own monster. Sadly, many people find “deep community” in places other than the church. I have friends who do cross-fit, and say those communities are tight knit and supportive. They give money and time to the cross-fit community. It is basically a church, especially if the people gathering there are predominantly Christian. It’s hard for churches to compete with that. Do they really need to? I wonder if its time to re-imagine our traditional church model? Is there a platform that is more effective in developing a Christ-centered community that is welcoming, loving, and effective at discipling people in a way that empowers change? Like you said, it’s a moving target. So where do we find our grounding?

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    Good questions. When looking at communities what should separate “church” from other communities is the purpose and why they meet and for whom are they meeting. I as well, know several people involved in crossfit style programs and many of them are people of faith. Though community and deep fellowship are part of this club the difference is the purpose behind the club and the reason people attend. As far as, a better platform? There is a difference between the body of Christ and the church. If we are looking at the formal institutional gathering of people on Sunday, the church, then I would question whether what we have morphed into is the best format.

    Could it be that part of the problem is we are use to constant change around us that we forget that when it comes to the things of God change begins from the inside out? We see radical shifts with individual and cultural trends but we sometimes forget deep community is often a plant of slow growth. Are we desiring microwave christianity without realizing the true community is a crock pot process? Has consumer religion created a sense of impatience in us when it comes to the changing of the human heart?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      “When looking at communities what should separate “church” from other communities is the purpose and why they meet and for whom are they meeting.”

      Greg, this is an interesting observation. I think part of the reason why so many people flock to these alternative communities is because they find the church doesn’t provide that a lot of times (the reason for this varies from person to person and church to church of course). But you’re also right that community is a slow process; it’s not something that can happen over night but requires constant attention and cultivation. Add into that our culture of instant gratification and it’s no wonder people jump from one community to another to try to find their place. One of the key phrases of the Acts 2 church is that they were “devoted” to the apostles teachings and to fellowship – being with one another. This is also one of the things that Francis Chan points out in Letters to the Church (and many other authors in their respective books) about how so many things compete for our attention, so our devotion is split. The tension arises when you have people who HAVE been patient trying to develop community with limited results. This discouragement ends up driving people away or into the arms of others.

  3. mm John McLarty says:

    I’ve been wrestling with the idea lately that “less is the new more.” There are trends to declutter and downsize and I’m wondering if this might be something for the Church to think about. We’ve spent decades trying to keep church members busy with programs, activities, meetings, worship, volunteering, etc. Would the community of faith recognize and appreciate the “gift” of simplicity and returning to basic spiritual practices? Would this lead to a deeper discipleship or might it further disconnect them?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      John I have wondered the same thing! I think it may be a challenge for some but I bet there are a lot of people ready to simplify their lives. I personally would find it refreshing.

  4. mm Steve Wingate says:

    “The key is in somehow avoiding a chosen blindness to the mistakes and frailties of the church and not becoming overtly pessimistic and negative about the future of the church.”

    Okay, how can you and I, without being defensive seek to show the benefits to corporate gatherings? I mean more than a logical defense. Are we hanging out too much with those who do rather than those who don’t care about church? But, wait, that’s too messy, too hard, costs too much… for many.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Steve I sometimes wonder if we have forgotten that its the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin and change lives. Do you think that sometimes the way we do Sunday gathers can be more hindering than a help to the Holy Spirit?

  5. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Many of the unintended consequences of new ideas are a result of the seemingly uncritical acceptance of the new. Making it easier for others to experience a worship service (i.e. YouTube) allows some families to watch the same service as their father in prison (true story), but at the same time allows people to say, “Ahhh. Let’s just watch it from home today.” In attempts to expose more people, other consequences arise. This makes me consider putting together a series of questions to aid in that critical thought.

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