“There’s a church for everybody.” Well Actually, Not Really – Confronting our Christian Consumerism – Post 4

“There’s a church for everybody.”

I have heard this statement numerous times. The idea is that if you look hard enough, keep your heart open and throw in a dash of prayer, God will lead you to the perfect match. I know, it sounds almost like an E-Harmony commercial.

Still, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time thinking about this line. You might think it’s because I have such a big heart for believers earnestly looking for a church to call their own and while I do want that, I have to admit it’s secondary to why I have poured such mental energy into this. The real reason is for as long as I can remember, I’ve been looking for a perfect church match for myself.

Now, countless others have reached the conclusion there is no such thing as a “perfect church” – this is obvious and I have no issue with that. But I have come to also believe there is not a church for everyone – at least not in the way that statement is often intended.

First the obvious logic – we are all so different and unique that a statement like that pretty much means each person would end up with their own church. Even worse, we change over the years, and this church would have to as well, meaning on the days we feel personally confused or divided, we’d have to split our own personal churches. So now we need two or three or who knows how many churches per person. You get the idea.

Now one could say once the Holy Spirit enters the Christian heart, each believer is a temple of God (a singular functioning church!) and that sounds great in the I Corinthians 6:19 sense but not so great in the each believer is a “Walking 501C3″ sense.

So what options does this leave us with?

Sometimes we say, “Church is not about you” which is true on one level but it’s also a disguised way of saying, “Lower your standards.” Can you hear the call to worship – “Don’t worry about how lousy the ministry is, just be happy you’re worshipping!” This is clearly a poor option and I find it to be another half-truth.

The second oft-advised option is to “keep looking,” which can also be misconstrued to “Keep church-shopping, go for more test-drives, talk to more satisfied parishioners …” Another lousy option and after a while, you get tired of looking and its tempting to either give up or to sink in a deeper apathy wherever you are.

My issue with church-shopping is not that people are comparing one church to another trying to figure out what is a better fit for them and their family. We do that with just about everything – dating, home-buying, seeking a career/job, and countless other worthy things including many that are subtle (like friendships) – comparison is human.

My problem is the mentality that looks at church life from a mere customer perspective analyzing the amenities not the opportunities. Seeing the sermon, worship style, and various elements as a performance is consumeristic. Seeing those same things as genuine opportunities to grow in our faith and pour ourselves into them to build the Kingdom and serve others is Christian discipleship.

I’ve heard enough bad sermons (given too many too) and experienced too many rough moments in a worship service to have developed a palette of my preferences if you will but it would do us well to remember the global church too. In particular, the persecuted minorities who see the style of music of a particular church as the least of their concerns. They are simply hoping they can worship without being attacked and dream of the day of worshipping freely. Now I don’t mention this to create sense of guilt (“You’re complaining about who has the better preaching when millions of persecuted Christians are praying they can just hear a sermon!”) as we live in our respective contexts but I do hope this adds another layer of perspective us as we confront our consumerism.

Which leads me to a possible third option:
When it comes to finding a home church, we could change our framework and intentionally look for a fit. It won’t be perfect and it’s not taylor-made and if we think it is, it should create suspicion.

Again, church consumer mentality is the issue we need to confront and we can only do this by being committed to prayer, sacrifice, and being self-aware. We should ask ourselves, “Why am I (or we as a family) looking for a new church and what would make it a good fit?”

A concern I have for my fellow over-churched, cynical, idealist brothers and sisters is that we will squander too much time and opportunity not contributing to building the Kingdom that can bring redemption and healing to us and others. We’ve been hurt, we’ve been critical, some of this has been warranted, some probably hasn’t and I fear we are burning more bridges than building them. We find ourselves in a time where we have to build new ones, repair the old, and find new and innovative paradigms that go beyond traditional bridges, metaphors, and modes of “doing church.”

Which brings us to the realization that we need more and different types of churches in our respective communities. We can find calling in this need and we can plant new ones and bring reform to existing congregations. I am a firm believer that there is a time to look for a new church, even if we are a part of the same local one and I also believe there is a time to stay in the one you are in. But searching for this with the consumer mindset will not help us and hence the need to be people of prayer, seeking the Spirit’s leading and strength as we find our way.

There may not be a church for everybody in the sense of so many different brands and styles to fit each everyone specificity. But my hope is that everyone can find a church they can worship, serve, grow and experience true community in. May we find our place and calling in Jesus’ Kingdom and as we understand the New Testament, this means in the context of the Church.

Next post seeks to look at what type of church is the right church, big, small, mid-size, missional, liturgical, house, attractional, missattractional, and whatever other terms we can make up. Thanks for reading and feel free you to offer your thoughts.

Speak Your Mind