Consumer Religion

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Whenever and company is considering moving a part of their business to a certain area of the country, they conduct a consumer demographic of the area to see if the area will support their business. They will survey the area to find out the median age, salary level, family size, and interests of the community. They want to know what the community wants and whether they can provide it to them. They then, if possible and the consumer index is healthy with a future for profit, design and modify the business to conform to the community and their perceived needs or wants. This is a marketing technique used by almost all successful business enterprises. To understand this kind of thinking, it may be good to define some terms. By Consumer goods, I am talking about goods that directly or indirectly satisfy human wants whether real or perceived. The word “consume” means to do away with or to use up. A consumer is one who consumes. So companies identify what you desire to consume and then market them for your consumption. This is no doubt a great strategy for gaining customers for businesses.

My concern is that in some parts of the country and maybe in our own city we have those who market religion in the same way. It is called “Consumer Religion”. And the same way businesses conduct a consumer demographic of the area to determine age, salary range, family size, and interests, so do some religions. What kind of music do they like? What kinds of drama or movies draw them? What kind of restaurants do they frequent? What is their favorite coffee? Do they like sports like softball, basketball, or volleyball? In fact, in some church growth books we are even told how to get this information from the corner quick mart, which has already, done the leg work for us. You can find out what your community wants and then dispense it to them. If they like coffee, put in a coffee bar. If they like sports, put in a gymnasium or softball field. If they like music, give them music. Do they like movies and drama, then give that to them as well. I saw a large road side sign that advertised, “Come as you are; its all about you.” Another church marquee advertised, “Classic and Blended Contemporary Worship.” We are told that if we want to grow numerically, become “consumer conscience” and give them what they want, they will come.

They no doubt will, but for all the wrong reasons! Since when did religion become all about the consumer and meeting his or her real or perceived needs/wants? Where is the cross in all this? Whatever happened to the gospel being the power of God for salvation? What is it about the cross or the gospel that is so powerful on one hand drawing people to it, while at the same time driving people from it? The cross of Jesus draws people to it because on the cross, the blood of God’s son was shed for the remission of mankind’s sin. But it drives people away from it at the same time, because people don’t want to be confronted with their real problem, “sin” and their real need “forgiveness”! Think about it, as the church of the living Christ, do we need more coffee bars, BBQ’s, softball teams, classic and contemporary worship services, and more drama to grow the church? A more important question might be, does God need these things? Has religion so blended into society that it really is not all that different from society, only now it is all marketed with a religious flavor. I find it interesting that Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32) Listen to Paul who was really into church growth, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2) For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greek’s search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentile’s foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) If we must be consumed by religion, let us be consumed by the cross of Jesus, which is the power of God unto salvation.

Because of Him, RJS