Christian Consumerism… part 2

Consumerism is the attitude/belief of many Christians that the church exists to serve them.

This is the second part of a two-part series on the danger of Consumerism in American churches. For the first part, see here.

“Consumer or maintenance-minded churches tend to design most of their events for members.” (Minatrea, Shaped By God’s Heartp. 107)

This consumer mindset is typical of many of the larger churches in America. David Garrison notes in Church Planting Movements, “Not all is healthy in these large mega-churches that can typically only account for one-third of their members on any given Sunday. For too many, church membership has become a spectator sport rather than a vital part of daily life” (p. 160).

Thom Rainer’s research in Surprising Insights From the Unchurched reveals, “For most of the generations born before 1950, church is a place where you serve, sacrifice, and give. For most of the generations born after 1950, the question is not ‘What can I do to serve the church?’ but ‘What has the church done for me lately?’” (p. 90)

Since we live in such a consumer-driven culture, local churches must face the reality that many people who visit have a consumer-mindset. However, just because consumers show up at church does not mean that churches need to accommodate these desires and wishes (see attractionalism).

So many pastors and their families are facing burn-out because they try to satisfy the wishes and expectations of consumer Christians. It is unhealthy for church leaders to continue this accommodation of consumers, and it is unhealthy for those who attend to keep consuming. As Alan Hirsch has said, “Consumer Christians will suck the life out of you.”

Dan Kimball understands that consumerism needs to be addressed: “There is no way a missional church that understands her place in God’s story can produce consumer Christians. It would go against its very nature.” He urges churches to resist “the tendency to become consumer-oriented by keeping the mission at the forefront of all we do” (The Emerging Church, p. 78).

Here is what consumer Christians and consumer churches fail to understand:

Your life is much bigger than a good job, an understanding spouse, and non-delinquent kids. It is bigger than beautiful gardens, nice vacations, and fashionable clothes. In reality, you are part of something immense, something that began before you were born and will continue after you die. God is rescuing fallen humanity, transporting them into his kingdom, and progressively shaping them into his likeness—and he wants you to be a part of it. (Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, pp.20–21).

When churches stop catering to consumers and Christians stop behaving like consumers, then the Kingdom may begin to advance in local communities.

How have you sought to abandon a consumerist mentality in your church, or in your own personal behaviors?

(Consumerism is one of the dangers to Missional Christianity that I wrote about in my doctoral dissertation; other obstacles include Attractionalism, Clericalism, Mega-ism, and Infantalism.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
2 replies
  1. BoRazz
    BoRazz says:

    Hey Dave, good to see you blogging again. One thing Lyn and I have done to train out some of the consumerism is to intentionally choose a multicultural (primarily African-American) church to join. This is a church with a multi-ethnic vision but the cultural DNA is different than ours; we therefore are reminded on a constant basis that the church is not there for us. Another thing we do is to get over to Kenya annually if possible; this cross-cultural immersion strips away the notion that it's all about us; when we see the needs in the world, along with the great things God is doing that are different than the way we might do them, it helps move us out of the center and at least see others as equally important.

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