Church Shopping Exposed

churchsign(2)We’re here this Sunday morning in the lobby of What’s Happening Now Community Church, located in Suburban Falls, USA. A couple new to the church has just exited the service and has approached the preaching pastor. Let’s listen in.

Pastor: Good morning! You’re new, right?

Joe: Hi. Yes, I’m Joe and this is my wife, Jill.

Pastor: Great to have you here this morning!

Jill: Yes, first time here. Really loved the service.

Pastor: Well, God bless you both.

Joe: Do you have a moment? We were wondering if we could ask you a few questions.

Pastor: Sure. Fire away.

Joe: How many services do you have?

Note: This is code for, “I like to sleep in late on Sundays.”

Pastor: Oh, we have five different services to try to appeal to everyone.

Jill: Yeah, I noticed in your bulletin. You have a Traditional service, a Blended service, a Contemporary service, an Emergent Service, and a Hipster service for people who wear bushy beards and bow ties ironically.

Pastor: We do our best!

Joe: Well, we really liked the sermon this morning. It is so good to hear a sermon with “meat,” not the kind that’s, well, you know, “milk.”

Note: This is code for, “I listen to a lot of Christian talk radio, and I want my sermons to sound just like my favorite radio personality.”

Pastor: Well, you’ll find that we just preach from “The Word” here.

Note: This is the typical response that pastors have to these kinds of questions. I think there’s a seminary class that coaches them on these answers.

Joe: Do your sermons always run that long though?

Note: This is code for, “It will be football season soon, and I don’t want the sermon to eat into the pre-game show.”

Pastor: Well, you’ll find that we just preach from “The Word” here.

Joe: I really did like the worship today.

Jill: Yes, was that man your regular worship leader?

Pastor: Yes, we’re proud to say that he’s on staff full-time, three Sundays a month, uh, when he’s not touring. You should pick up his new CD in our bookstore, “Singing About Jesus Really High.”

Joe: Oh yeah, I think I’ve heard that on the Christian radio station. Real catchy.

Jill: I take it that you have a children’s ministry?

Pastor: Yes, we have an excellent children’s ministry. We have programs up to eighth grade on Sundays.

Note: Jill is secretly relieved at this statement, since she goes to church in part to get away from her kids.

Jill: Do you have an indoor jungle gym? Because First Baptist down the street has an indoor jungle gym and our kids just love it.

Pastor: Uh, no I’m sorry, we don’t have one.

Note: Wrong answer. The pastor makes a mental note to talk to the facilities director about installing that zip line and climbing wall next to the snack bar.

Jill: Oh. That’s really too bad. How about middle school or high school? Is it very big? Do they play loud rock music there?

Note: At this point, the pastor must make a critical decision. On one hand, they could be the kind of couple who don’t want rock music influencing their teenage children. Or they could be a couple that have teenagers who desire a more cutting-edge program. It’s a coin toss, really.

Pastor: Uh, the answer is…Yes?

Joe and Jill: Oh good!

Pastor: (Fist pumping.) Yeah! In your face, First Baptist!

Jill: Excuse me?

Pastor: Uh, I said, lovely place, First Baptist.

Jill: Oh.

Pastor: Do you have any other questions?

Joe: No. You’ve been great. Thanks so much for your time.

Pastor: So, will we be seeing you next week?

church_doors_04Jill: (Jill and Joe share a glance and a smile.) Yes, we think so. Thanks so much.

Pastor: Well that’s great! Just wonderful! Make sure you visit our coffee bar on the way out. Tell them the mocha frappuccinos are on me!

Jill: Oh, golly. You know, Joe is lactose intolerant.

Joe: Yeah, well, I’m afraid we won’t be coming back after all.

Note: Joe and Jill leave, disappointed, but ready to go church shopping again next Sunday. The pastor chases after them…

Pastor: But…but…did I tell you about our free gym membership?!

[This blog was originally posted in 2010. Unfortunately, I think it’s still relevant today. Photo above compliments of says-it.com.]

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5 thoughts on “Church Shopping Exposed

  1. While I agree church hopping for the sake of church hopping is problematic, I know there are other reasons people ask those kinds of questions, because I ask them for different reasons (side note: I move around the country for my husband’s work, so we “church shop” rather frequently). When I ask “how many services” it’s not because I like to sleep in, but because my husband’s work schedule sometimes has him working in the morning, but we’d like to go together. When we talk about sermons with “meat” (although we use different words) it’s because we felt like we learned something, not that we went and might as well have been staring at the walls. Since I believe that the point of church is to worship, fellowship and grow in my faith, learning more about God and the Bible is important. Finally, when I ask about children’s programs, it’s not because I want to get away from my son, it’s because I want him to be able to learn and I want someone to teach him at a level he can understand.

    1. Hi Christina:

      I totally understand that there are legitimate reasons for liking and attending one church over another. This parody is not so much regarding people who are looking for a church home but on the lengths to which churches go to woo people to their doors. The attractional model of church, in it’s desire to meet people’s needs, inadvertently plays into Christian consumerism, and is problematic at best.

      I will say though that the primary question a “chuch shopper” should be asking is not what features a church might have that best meets their needs, but rather what church would God have you be a part of, based on His will. Sometimes the two are very different. Blessings to you.

  2. Thanks for this–and yes still seems relevant! But maybe the main issue is more about being authentic and not religious, more than the consumer approach? Good to ponder: Why do we gather in the first place? Thanks again.
    Greetings from Holland,
    Jasmine

  3. Thank you, Manuel, for this blog post “Church Shopping Exposed.” Speaking as a pastor in ministry for several years, while the conversation that you create between a pastor and visiting Joe and Jill who are church shopping may sound to some to be exaggerated, sadly it is too realistic. Therefore, only to one or two of the comments was I able to giggle, briefly, but to most of the comments I could only exhibit a saddened countenance. I appreciate that you have been lovingly candid in exposing the attitudes of consumerism in American Christian churches. Don’t get me wrong; I love ministry and I love the Church and I love the Lord of the Church! For such love I appreciate hearing another voice that is led to say the same things with the intention to clear out of the Lord’s temples the mercantilism that clutters the ears and eyes from worshiping the Father in spirit and truth; such cleansing is often due in each of us. Very timely.
    Robert
    P.S. I wonder if you have ever thought of the trend of what I call “generational segregation” in modern churches.

    1. Hi Robert. I resonate with the heart of your response. And I know that, as a pastor, you are not alone. I commend you in that, while you might sound a little discouraged, you continue to love the Church, warts and all. God bless you today.

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