We have all heard it. Whether its in daily life and the “I am a Pepsi drinker” statement or “only Diet Coke for me please.” Or, perhaps you have said or heard, “I’m happy to go to McDonalds, but please not Burger King” or vice-versa. Or, perhaps the most common one, “I love my smart phone,” or “I couldn’t function without my I-Phone.” Or, “I’m a Mac user all the way,” or “I love my PC.”
We all have preferences. These are ingrained in us. They are a common norm of being consumers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this.
However, what do you think of when you hear or even say, yourself: “I go to this church because they have a good drummer,” or “because the style speaks to me?” What do you hear in these sorts of statements and sentiments?
What I hear is “I” and “me” statements. Where is the “us,” “we,” and “community?” Have we become so individualized that we are unable to look and see beyond ourselves?
Within congregations, it’s time to name consumerism for what it is. The pastoral care approach of trying to justify consumerism away as “its just the way it is” or reason with it, doesn’t work. Because when you take this approach someone who poses an ultimatum on leadership because of, for example, wanting to have worship at a particular time, like 8:30am in the morning or they are leaving for another church because a 9am start for worship is just too late, usually leads to listening but a lack of leadership.
Letting people operate like this, perpetuates a sense that individuals can consume the church, or that the church is something to be consumed.
The rationale for changes and decision making within a faith community cannot rest with one person, one family, or even a small group of people. It needs to be met and led by vision casting and large scale congregational involvement. This is discernment really. In a lot of ways, this is the church’s answer to consumerism- intentional space for fellowship, listening and discernment from and with one another and the larger world and community.
For the people who look for something to complain about, either to feel better about themselves or because they need to feel in control, I have little patience. I suspect, most leaders in general have little patience for such people (not just in the church).
Alternatively, for the people who are invested, present, and contributing, I will bend over backward to work with. If you want to be part of the building, development and redevelopment processes because you see the value, the need and have stayed to be part of the hard work of the faith community, I have the utmost patience and joy to work with you.
To lead and do the work of ministry takes energy and it requires people who are able to look beyond themselves and wonder, “what if?” and “what might God be up to here?” You know what is missing in these questions? It is probably pretty obvious. There is no “I” or “me” in them, rather the focus is on God, and the neighbor.
This past week’s readings in worship (following the narrative lectionary) dealt with the 10 Commandments. When you get to the heart of them, they seem to be about love and how to love God and your neighbor and be in relationship with God and your neighbor. Again, they are about how we function with others, not just ourselves. There’s nothing consumerist about that. Maybe it’s time the church just openly says so and starts a conversation. What do you think? Do we treat the church like something to be consumed?
Image Credit: Cathedral Sanctuary