Consumers demand options, but this poses a problem. Formation into the likeness of Christ is not accomplished by always getting what we want. In ages past, choice was not heralded as a Christian's right. In fact, relinquishing our choices by submitting to a spiritual mentor or community was prerequisite to growth in Christ. Believers were guided through formative and corrective disciplines—most being activities we would never choose if left to our desires. But surrendering control ensured we received what we needed to mature in Christ, not simply what we wanted.
In consumer Christianity, however, church leaders function as religious baristas, supplying spiritual goods for people to choose from based on their preferences. Our concern becomes not whether people are growing, but whether they are satisfied. An unhappy member, like an unhappy customer, will find satisfaction elsewhere. As one pastor enthusiastically said, "The problem with blended services is that half the people are happy half the time. With a video venue, you can say, 'If you don't like this service style, try another one!'"
From iChurch: All We Like Sheep in Christianity Today. This is an article with some interesting insights.
Ironically, CT has a poll on the topic of why people choose a particular church.
Even more ironic is the location of the poll: Humor>Fun and Games.
Which is probably true for many. Church finding has become a game of finding fun.
The results are interesting.
52% say doctrine and philosophy are most important.
16% say pastor and preaching.
11% say it just feels right.
7% say worship style.
I wonder if this poll (and others like it) consider other issues. For example, how many of that 52% would find another church if their contemporary worship became traditional? How many of the 16% would dislike the pastor and preaching if the band was exchanged for an organ?
Do we really believe that Saddleback would be 25,000 people with a piano, organ, and choir? Even with Warren preaching in shorts and hawaiian shirts? Would Willow Creek be 15,000 people with a string orchestra and traditional hymns?
This poll, incidentally, is similar to one Thom Rainer has in his book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched. I think a major difference is that Rainer's book allowed people to choose more than one option, while this poll allows only one.
So while I find the poll interesting, I also find it virtually useless. Which leads me to wonder why I have spent time thinking about it?