Christianity the Consumer Product: Part I (TCM)
I’ve been a Christian for some 15 years now, and have had the privilege of working with all different kinds of faith communities. I’ve witnessed a lot of differing approaches to ministry some of which are wildly successful and others that are wholly underwhelming. What is interesting is that in all of these relationships I have witnessed a very consistent undercurrent within the universal body in America. This can be hard to notice because each denomination expresses this undercurrent differently, but it is there all the same. Before I get to that though, I think it’s helpful to give a brief overview of how American Christianity has gotten to where it is.
With the onset of liberalism in the mid 1800’s a clear divide within the Church began to present itself. This divide became more and more defined until WWI where the optimism of liberalism began to acquire a reality check circa WWI and WWII. During this period, a clear line between what was considered secular, and spiritual became drawn in the sand that has continued into today. Now these lines have moved some since the early 20th century, but they are still very present. In the 80’s certain church leaders began to integrate marketing strategies and corporate structures in their churches which eventually resulted in the mega-church movement. With this, a melding of the secular and the spiritual had taken place and the strategies appeared to be working.
With this however came some side-effects that church leaders likely were not expecting. When people began looking for a church in a new area we started to call it, “church shopping.” When deciding where to worship with God’s people decisions were made based on the Pastor’s presentation, the worship, or perhaps even the program offerings that are available. In evangelism we began to talk about what Jesus could do for us, selling Him as a product to be bought (if wanted) with faith and good deeds. We became obsessed with the question, “What can Jesus do for me?” When these questions began floating around, when Christian stores began selling “Christian” self-help books and popular Christian pastors began to sound more like motivational speakers than stewards of the gospel, this is when we as the Church in America began to lose sight of what the gospel is and what we are called to.
This separation between the secular and the spiritual then has begun to disappear, but it has begun to do so in a bad way. Instead of Christian faith discerning what is and is not ok in accord with God’s word, secular theories and methodologies are judging whether God’s word is true. Instead of approaching evangelism in a biblically holistic way, we pick out portions that support our methodology and ignore the rest. Pastors learn preaching techniques from public speakers, and avoid difficult topics so as not to step on any toes, and they speak on the love of Christ without actually describing what that is. In the next two weeks, I will be doing two different posts with one titled, “Selling Jesus Out,” and the other being, “Sold Out for Jesus.” In each of these, I plan to give a case for how we have betrayed the gospel and how we go about fixing it. Before then though, comment below and give your opinion on what is broken in the church and how we should go about fixing it. Have a conversation about it and let’s begin a dialogue where each of us can learn from the other. Peace and Blessings and as always, thank you for reading.