Kathy has written a post - from a US perspective - that raises a lot of questions for me: How the Church is Training Consumers instead of Disciples. This is very interesting in light of my previous post: Reasons for Giving Up Church-Going.
I've just ordered the book that I referred to in the previous post but I haven't read it. However, the suggestion that churches 'multi-plex' strikes me as incredibly consumerist. The review suggested to me that the conclusion of the study were something like: 'I'm only attending church if I get the style of worship / liturgical tradition / kind of teaching that I'm interested in. Otherwise, I'm outta here.'
If people in our society are used to being able to get 'what they want, when they want', how does the church 'compete' with other Sunday activities? Should it compete? I think the dilemma here is: What's the difference between being 'In the world but not of the world' and 'Being in the world as well as of the world'? Many people seem to use the criteria of 'bums on pews' as being a successful indicator of a church that is a good witness for Christ and is making disciples.
It seems to me that the activities that Church is competing with - on Sundays or on other days - aren't activities that are going to help people find the meaning of life or love their neighbour. The activities are largely short-term and pleasure-inducing: sleep, sport, shopping, eating out, country walks; with apologies to those who have to work on Sundays or until 9:00 or 10:00 on weekdays! For church to compete head-to-head with these consumerist or consumerist-led activities, it has to become even more entertaining and gratifying. How does that square with learning to love God and love our neighbour?
I expect that some will see this post as an excuse not to change anything. In fact, I think it's vital that the church change and I agree that discipleship has to have a measure of fun and joy; but I do worry very much about the issues Kathy raises and whether we'll still 'be church' if we pander to all consumer whims.