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13 May 2009

Church Restaurant Syndrome

I'm avoiding disclaimers from now on, I think. If something doesn't apply to you, then don't assume that I meant for it to apply to you. Be aware that I understand that there are many church fellowships and many believers in the Church to whom this post does not apply. (Wait a second... that was a disclaimer, wasn't it?)

I was listening to a PleaseConvinceMe.com podcast this morning that brought out some interesting points. Jim Wallace, the speaker (Christian apologist and cold-case homicide detective!), made some notes about what people like in a good restaurant. His results were along these lines:

  • Waiters are friendly
  • Food is the right temperature
  • Atmosphere is pleasant and inviting
  • Don't have to wait long for food
  • Entertaining things for kids (balloons, coloring menus, etc.)
  • Food is prepared to desired specifications
It's obvious where this is going. He compared this restaurant/consumer experience to the modern-day church, and here are some of those comparisons. What do people like in a "good church"?
  • People are friendly
  • Sermon and music are just the right temperature (not extreme one way or the other)
  • Atmosphere is pleasant and inviting
  • Music nor message last an inordinately long time
  • Entertainment for kids (note: this is not disparaging to children's ministries that have a serious Biblical focus)
  • Service is prepared to desired specifications
Now, just because I can draw some parallels between the Church and a restaurant doesn't serve as some kind of hard evidence that the Church is on the road to ruin. I don't intend to bash the Church, but if this is what you consider "bashing," then I guess I am, because I am suggesting that these have most often become the focus of what a typical church fellowship does rather than our tools to equip believers in developing a deeper relationship with Christ.

Now, of course people at a church ought to be friendly, and it follows that the atmosphere should be pleasant and inviting. But these should be symptoms of a church fellowship that's infected with the Holy Spirit -- not results of the way we've trained our greeters or painted our lobbies.

I meet fewer and fewer people who'd argue that we haven't created and encouraged a consumer mentality in our churches, but change is coming slowly, at best. Mercifully, though, I do see it beginning.

If you agree with what I'm saying, then I have a question for you. What can we actively do to change this consumer-focused mindset within the Church? What do I and other leaders need to be doing? What do "regular" members need to be doing? And have we drawn such a stark line between leaders and "regular" members that everything rests on the leadership? And if so... is that Biblical?

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