Don’t you just hate it when you receive bad service? Whether it was at a restaurant or a retail store, when the staff whom you interact with is either disrespectful or being dreadful, it really diminishes your shopping experience and it might even ruin your day!
We all want to be respected as customers and treated with a sense of dignity. If we are treated right as consumers, we are more inclined to purchase the goods or services, and of course, if we get the opposite treatment, we are inclined to simply leave the store immediately, never to return.
Consumerism, as defined in the Oxford dictionary is “the protection or promotion of the interests of consumers”. Of course, things weren’t always this way.
Back in the old days, they didn’t have slogans such as “Customer is King”. Historically the seller had the upper hand when it came to the power balance, but as economies became more sophisticated, the power imbalance somewhat shifted in favour towards the consumers, at least from a small firm perspective.
Funnily enough, it seems this trend has trickled into the church, and now most of our contemporary churches seem to be engulfed with consumerism.
When consumerism plays itself out at church
So how has consumeristic attitude influence church-goers? In short, people became picky. People started looking for that “perfect church”, where the music is just their taste, the general vibe of the church service and community is to their liking, where people won’t bother you too much and ask you to commit yourself in a sacrificial manner etc.
However, these are only just the surface issues. The real issue at hand is that church-goers started recognizing themselves as consumers, whereby the power balance is to their advantage, and if they don’t like what they get, they can simply choose to hop to another church that will fulfill their personal wants.
Well to be fair, the church itself also started to morph itself into a seeker-friendly church simultaneously. Church growth movement and church growth strategies became popularized, and consequently sociology and psychology started to shape some churches more than the word of God itself. Conception of such churches led to a creation of positive feedback loop that just amplified the worsening effect.
There is no place for consumerism in the church
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 12)
The bible uses the analogy of a body to describe the church. It is one body, all united through Christ, who is the head. Different members of the church are different parts of the body: ears, eyes, nose, limbs, hair, heart, lungs, nails, teeth etc. The bible doesn’t stop there, it goes on to tell us that we all are dependent upon each other in order to properly function as a church.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verses 17 to 18).
No matter how weak you think your faith is, no matter how insignificant you think you are in the church, you are still identified as a part of the body of Christ. You serve a purpose and a function, and without you fulfilling your duty as the part of the body, the body will not properly function as it ought to.
You are not alien to this body; in fact, you are an integral part of it. This goes on to show that there is indeed no place for consumerism in the church. Everyone is called to serve one another.
If you even have a single ounce of thought in your mind saying that you don’t need to serve but that you only ought to be served by the leadership, you need to know that you are wrong and you need to repent; and ask God to give you the proper desire that you ought to have: namely the heart of servanthood.
Richard Kwon is from Auckland, a regular lay person who just loves the Lord.