I am a church member. I teach a small group in my church. I occasionally preach when my pastor is out. I give to the church faithfully. I have been involved in other ministries in the church over the years.
But I sometimes start acting like a church consumer instead of a committed church member. Instead of focusing on others as 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 clearly demonstrate, I start acting like the church is supposed to serve me. I want to get my needs met. I want things a certain way for my family and me. My unholy trinity is me, myself, and I.
Tracking My Own Attitude and Behavior
Recently, I’ve started tracking my own attitude by going through a series of signs that my commitment to my church is not what it should be. Here are eleven signs that I am becoming a church consumer instead of a committed church member.
You know you are becoming a church consumer when:
- Your worship attendance becomes optional.
- You replace in-person attendance with digital attendance (though I fully understand that some people are unable to attend in-person).
- Your attendance to a small group is declining, or you stop attending completely.
- Your attitude toward your church is more critical.
- Your giving declines or stops.
- You critique sermons instead of listening prayerfully.
- You see church as a place to meet your needs instead of your meeting the needs of others.
- You move readily to another church when your needs are not met.
- You get frustrated at what other church members aren’t doing.
- You don’t pray for your church regularly.
- You don’t share the gospel.
Church Consumers Are Not Biblical
The local church is the dominant topic in the Bible after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Indeed, the entirety of the New Testament, from Acts 2 to Revelation 3, is either about the local church or written in the context of the local church.
The local church is God’s plan A, and he didn’t leave us a plan B.
I am a church member.
Sometimes I need to be reminded to act and think like one.
Posted on July 25, 2022
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I would respectfully ask you to reconsider the part about online attendance. Before the pandemic, there were limited ways to engage people who stopped coming in the building for whatever reason. Online was openly criticized and mocked by people who either didn’t understand the reason this emerging tool was necessary, or didn’t care.
When everything got shut down, we were ready and prepared without a hiccup. No one mocks online anymore in my church, at least not openly as before.
You still engage people on their timetables, you still have a presence in people who may never darken the doors of our church for various reasons, and you still have a way to minister to people who like the freedom or are just caught up in the societal pressures of consumerism. Your message still get into their lives. When I see people watching online during the week, I see people who still consider growing as a christian a priority even when life issues either prevent them from coming in person, or exhaustion from the rat race gives them permission to watch when they can better listen.
I think that it is possible for the church leadership to promote a consumer mentality in its members. I have experience of a church which was a ‘professionals-only ministry’ church (the absolute opposite of an all-member ministry church), where the main requirement of the members was to give money to the church to pay for the dozen or more clergy and staff who could be relied on to provide services (in the widest sense of that word) that were of sufficient standard to maintain the high reputation of the church in the local community, and not let the reputation be harmed by allowing the amateurs in the pews do anything of significance.
It is hard to stay with it if; 1. The services are absent of the felt presence of the Lord. 2. If the sermons are book reports, history lessons and psycology rather that PRACTICAL Biblical truth. 3. The messages are lacking the anointing of the Holy Spirit. 4. The messages are above the heads of the attendees. 5. Many churches have become entertainment centers, competing for the attention of youth by more “fun stuff” mised with a little Jesus. 6. When gifted people who could serve are ignored and their gift not implemented. 7. When people are NOT being trained for soul winning and sent to the streets to witnesss and minister. 8. It’s hard to stay with something that has no collectice purposes other than to meet and hear sermons. 9. If a pastor has no vision for the church and is just dropping in to speak. A bus that is NOT heading anywhere will not have passengers.
I am so glad I am not your pastor. Your critical spirit, though cloaked in self-righteousness, actually proves the point of this article. You are truly a church consumer, a very critical church consumer.
You are amazing, Robert. You know when the Holy Spirit is working in others’ lives. You can determine if the Lord is present in a place. You know exactly what the pastor needs to do or not do. It’s easy to point out the supposed problems instead of trying to be part of the solution.
In contrast to the other replies to this comment, I see it as a valid complaint from a sheep that is not being fed by the pastor of the flock (point 2), where opportunities for getting involved in service are blocked off (point 6), and where the church has no vision or purpose (points 8 and 9). I think it is possible that these failings particularly frustrate and annoy men, while women don’t particularly notice them and have a great time of fellowship at the worship services chatting to each other – and who then criticise men for being dissatisfied and disparaging (see other replies to this comment).
I wish I could say that I can’t believe this comment. It would have been fine until the phrase “I think it is possible…” As a pastor, I found the commentary by Robert at least condescending.
No conspiracy either. If more than one person sees something in a particular way, the initial commenter may be well served to see if there was misinterpretation.
Here’s another sign, very common among students and young adults:
“You regularly attend worship events (a.k.a. concerts) at multiple churches.”
Young people often see their churches as shows to attend rather choosing one as a family in which to engage. I’m afraid current youth ministry models unintentionally contribute to this, and parents see it as a good thing because their kids are engaging in positive activities. But it’s undermining church commitment, and the dropout rate of young adults is evidence.
I agree. Although I offer a perspective and, hopefully a question to ask of the youth who might be doing this.
In my first year in Seminary, before I started doing field work and thus without a “home church” (not counting the Seminary chapel). There were 3 churches with different styles and preachers that I attended – each had a different ministry and strength. Each preached the gospel but because the churches were in different contexts and drew from different groups of people, they had different personalities. While there seemed to be neither rhyme nor reason to my selection of church to attend, I would feel called by the Spirit to attend a specific church – and received a double blessing in the process. Not just worship but a spiritual insight that I probably would not have received in a different church.
The question I would ask of the youth would be, “What is it about church ‘X’ that makes you want to go there from time to time?” A probing question about their faith journey might be just the thing to help them understand their faith a little better.
I totally understand your perspective and the need to be fed through various styles/contexts, however the requirement to serve has to factor into your perspective at some point. Beyond self-oriented needs, every servant of God has to demonstrate the love of Christ to others who are, like us, in need of a blessing. Church life (programs/concerts/conferences) can sometimes abandon its commission to make disciples and gravitate toward insular thinking; becoming a place where no one is attracted to stay. Be the solution.
Replying to Mrs. Williams (since I cannot add another layer to the thread). In my case, the process was complicated as I was in Seminary pursuing my call to ordination. One item of interest to me, as one who would be leading a liturgically based church (Episcopal), I needed to understand the variety of styles within my tradition. My problem, as one who “went to church on Sunday because it was good and proper” and “served because it was my commission,” was to realize that not everyone was like me. It wasn’t simply reflex to join a worship community.
But the crux of my comment still returns to the bottom line question posed, “what is it about church ‘X’ that is attractive to you?” should be something to kick off the self-serving question and self-reflection with the church hopper.
Spot on Thom. I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for your insight.
Why is there not a link to post articles to social media? This needs the widest possible reading with a single-click.
Wow! Thanks, Thom for sharing this. As a Pastor now for 46 years, I’M convicted but I like you see these things happening in our church. In fact, we have witnessed a number of these signs in just the past 2 weeks. It is disheartening, but I’m committed to reversing the trend in me first and doing all I can to see it reversed in our church. Thanks again! You are a blessing!
Thanks so much, Gary.
I. Have to agree first with the personal spiritual inventory, then the assessment. I’ve seen this, as you have so many times over the decades. Done it a couple of times too, only to be guilty of the things I scoffed at in church hoppers. It’s not about me, It is about the member’s around me. As in serving Jesus by/as serving his people. It’s not always perfect, not always easy, but always useful to the Kingdom.
Thank you, Tom. I love your heart.
Relates to the pop-up survey that came with this article, not the article itself (other than item 11). One of the questions was something along the lines of would having training in evangelism increase my sharing my faith. I had to answer “strongly disagree” b/c I’ve had plenty of training. Even helped write evangelism training. What I need is a holy kick in the pants to get out and do it. Also what I call “presence of mind in the moment” b/c seems like a lot of times I’ll be chatting someone up then 5 minutes later think “good grief, I could have turned that into an evangelistic conversation.”
So it isn’t not knowing how, it’s getting down to it and doing it. I suspect lots of other of us have the same struggle.
This fall we will launch “The Hope Initiative.” I think it will prove to be a simple but powerful evangelism resource for you and your church.
Great insight something all our members need to hear and reflect upon. Is it possible to share your article with our congregation?
Absolutely. Please cite your source.
BRAVO!!!!! I hope all pastors who read this blog will post a link to it on social media. It needs to be read by everyone.