Beyond the First Church of the Consumer

“Every step we take to further their consumer mentality is a disservice to our members and to the church at large.”

Church leaders’ responsibilities often can seem ambiguous. Do our responsibilities lie solely in leading the people within our church? How do we even define “the church”?

Many of us feel the tension between meeting the needs of our church family and those of our community. Both ends of the spectrum represent real people with real struggles. But the magnetic force that pulls our focus into our church walls can be so strong that it sometimes causes us to question our responsibilities outside those walls.

Pastoring a church isn’t a location-based obligation. Or maybe it is, and that location is where we are at any moment. Either way, it’s not something of which we clock in and out. It’s a commitment to share Christ and His great love with the people in our lives.

But that responsibility isn’t ours alone. It belongs to the church—anyone who follows Christ. We are the church, and we’re here for the world.

Stopping the Shopping

For many, especially in the American church, this isn’t an easy pill to swallow. The church has become a consumer good—something people shop for and evaluate based on what they and their family will get out of it.

In well-intentioned efforts to attract and reach people, churches start viewing people as customers. We wonder what we can teach that will resonate with them. What programs can we offer to keep them coming back? How can we keep their time, attention and resources here instead of being directed toward other, less-significant pursuits?

Instead of serving the world, we begin serving the people we want to keep coming through our doors week after week. How can we devote time to reaching people outside our church when it takes so much to serve the needs of the people inside the building?

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To best serve the people inside our church, we must lead them to serve the people outside the church.

We stop programming to their needs and invite them to serve the world with us. We help our church feel a responsibility for our community. It means leading them from a mindset of receiving to one of giving. Instead of “what can I get?” the question becomes “what can I give?”

A Vision Shift

This isn’t a change you can announce one Sunday like a new campaign and expect it to stick. It’s a transition, and like any successful transition it begins with vision.

It starts with you. Reconnect with why you’re in this role and regain your confidence in God’s calling and purpose. Our fear of confrontation or losing people leads us to try to keep them happy. Every step we take to further their consumer mentality is a disservice to them and to the church at large. Our role is to get them to think outside themselves.