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The Consumer Church

I’m not going to comment on this at the moment – I’d rather sit and think about it for a while. Join me if you are interested. I think this fits with what Justin and I talked about this afternoon.

“Given the conditions prevailing in our culture, this (consumer church) is the best and most effective way that has ever been devised for gathering large and prosperous congregations. Americans lead the world in showing how to do it. There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which God brings us into conformity with the life of Jesus and sets us on the way of Jesus’ salvation…The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of a sacrificial, ‘deny yourself’ congregation. A consumer church is an antichrist church.” -Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

What do you think?

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

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  1. April 22, 2008 at 10:03 am

    I think this is spot on. The implications are probably more than I can grasp at present, however, so I think this is a challenge to wrestle with.

    Matthew, I thought of you last night when I read a sentence in Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” where he comments on Christian contemporary music and the ability to substitute Jesus in for your girlfriend. p. 229.

  2. Peach
    April 23, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I am generally against having a consumerist mindset and methodology in the church. I always think of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” as an illustration of what happens when someone gets excited about a good thing (like Christmas in the movie, or in this case, the Church) and tries to be in charge of it while operating from an inappropriate paradigm. Good intentions don’t make up for the disastrous results. The Church is not a business, and the business/advertising/etc., mindset should not venture out of the Treasurer’s office.

    On the other hand, I do like the idea that a church can’t get lazy or treat people badly if they want to keep their parishioners.

    Here’s another question: Can Protestantism (with all its many denominations–usually with several represented in each town) exist without playing into the hands of the parishioner-as-church-consumer situation? Especially in light of the current trend toward generic evangelical ecumenism and dismissing or blurring the doctrines that make the denominations distinct . . .

  3. Matthew Johnson
    April 27, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Peach, that’s a good question and I don’t think any of us would be surprised at the answer. When I think about it, I appeal to those consumerist attitudes all the time as I think the Wesleyan-Methodist is the best foundational theology out there and I don’t hesitate to tell people that. In other words, “Come to my church because we’re the best!” I think maybe Peterson is commenting on what we’ve seen happen at Willow Creek – lack of real discipleship. We’re good at appealing to the American’s basic consumer attitude in order to get them in church but then we don’t do squat with them. That is a problem.

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