Americans live in a consumer society. We choose businesses that treat us with respect, and do what we feel that they should do. These businesses respond with new incentives, advertisements and feed off of our wants and needs. The businesses that do not end up somewhere in history as unable to compete, or displeasing to consumers. During my research for my MBA degree I was tasked with a difficult question that I thought would be beneficial to expand upon in an article.
The question that this article asks is, “Is the church a business?” and “should it be operated on the same principles?” I decided to leave out legal issues, and implications and ask the moral question, which is certain to be open to scrutiny, but I have made a viable attempt to answer this question, based on research and my own understanding of scriptural texts.
There are two major philosophies which have been profitable to the American Protestant church. The first philosophy comes about in my parent’s, and grandparent’s day. This philosophy stemmed from blue collar middle class workers who relied on God to meet the daily needs of the individual, and sought God as the source of all things. The second, more recent philosophy comes about from upper middle and white collar workers, which bases a person’s value to God on their ability to obtain wealth, and power.
A change in consumerism came about with both philosophies. The first philosophy treated church as the body which was driven and operated by God to fulfill the needs of the people and to support they body with prayer, financial support, and security. The focus for one’s value to God was never questioned, because God values all. The lack of power and prosperity was also not an issue, because it was understood that God was the source and if one was without it was deemed so by God and it was the responsibility of the church to fill in that gap that was created by God for the redemption of the church.
The newer philosophy of wealth and prosperity puts both the Christian and the Church in different roles. The individual is the focus in this model, and the measure of God’s grace and mercy is put upon those with the greatest wealth and power. The church is likewise positioned in an area to help the poor, but the measure of spirituality of the Christian is based on wealth and power. As more people realize that they can purchase a social position with God, the seats fill up faster, and the church grows. This creates a social environment for others, who seek to expand their own wealth and power, as a way to seek God’s favor.
We are now living in an age of consumer Christianity, where Christians not only seek God, but seek the power and wealth that demonstrate God’s favor. Churches that provide the best networking experience the greatest growth, and the members view the church from a consumer perspective, which in turn causes the church to react from a consumer perspective to satisfy the patrons and present growth to the board members.
From a moral perspective, I do not see that the church was ever intended to be driven by consumers. The value of a church is to provide the message of Jesus Christ to those who seek it out. Granted, this message can be driven further with greater wealth, and the church was not intended to be financially unstable. I am not anti a consumer church, but I believe that it does not position people for real issues that arise in life, which is critical to the change of one’s heart.