In our culture, the consumer is the center. It’s almost inevitable given that our nation has conducted a grand experiment with rampant individualism. This experiment has made its way into the center of commerce, as service industries have reached new heights in quality of service and attention, all with the goal of reaching more consumers and causing current consumers to consume more and more.
The church is not immune to the consumer mindset. By focusing primarily on meeting needs, the church often functions in market mode, focusing on creating the best experiences, programs, products, and events. Running right along with this is the growing ‘cult’ of the celebrity pastor who becomes – him- or herself – a “brand”. And the church becomes a purveyor of goods and services which – in exchange for presence, participation, maybe financial contributions – attenders receive spiritual merchandise.
Now, the search for excellence is a positive pursuit – even a biblical one. But the preoccupation of creating “more” and “better” can actually work against the development of biblical community. Why is this?
Because a continual focus on feeding “me” never leads to the much more biblical and healthy ‘we”.
We have a core, God-created need for creative community. But consumerism is the antithesis of community because consume is literally the opposite of create.
What are the key differences between community and consumerism -warning signs we can look for and positive values we can look to build into our churches?
- Community requires being missional; consumerism demands internal satiation.
- Community shares responsibilities greater than self; consumerism demands entitlements.
- Community expresses itself in service; consumerism feeds an endless hunger.
- Community leads to a shared freedom; consumerism leads to singular addiction.
- Community actively creates; consumerism passively devours.