You Can’t Buy Jesus

Being the Church in a Consumer Culture

Like Walmart, we have designated greeters at the door. Like movie theaters, we invite people to enjoy concessions of coffee and a doughnut before they take their seats. Like theme parks and shopping malls, we direct people to information kiosks. Like nightclubs, we offer VIP parking for first-time visitors. There are even door prizes.

 

Jesus buys us. As Paul puts it, “you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Yet somehow we have come to portray Jesus as a product we can buy, and our churches have become consumer paradises.

Like Walmart, we have designated greeters at the door. Like movie theaters, we invite people to enjoy concessions of coffee and a doughnut before they take their seats. Like theme parks and shopping malls, we direct people to information kiosks. Like nightclubs, we offer VIP parking for first-time visitors. There are even door prizes.

Being a friendly church is clearly important. And many of the examples I just gave are simply a part of expressing friendliness and showing hospitality. However, we need to think critically as church leaders about what message we are sending.

Do our actions say that Jesus is simply another product in the marketplace? Are we communicating to non-Christians that visiting a church is no different than trying out a yoga studio or steakhouse? If so, we’re in trouble, because Jesus buys us; we don’t buy Him.

The Pressures of Consumer Culture

Of course, most of us are not trying to suggest by our friendliness that Jesus is just a product. Rather, the reason we have begun including all these creature comforts in our churches is because of the pressures of our consumer culture.

I remember having a casual conversation with a pastor more seasoned than myself about when, how and where I should implement a coffee hour at my church. He remarked, “It’s one of those things, isn’t it? People have just come to expect that there will be coffee waiting for them when they walk through the front door of a church.”

It’s true. Church leaders are worried that people might never come back because the coffee wasn’t hot or the doughnuts weren’t fresh enough.

Unfortunately, these consumer-oriented fears can also translate into our preaching. To be sure, we want people to know that Jesus loves them, that He cares for them, that He wants to heal them, and that He wants to give them eternal life and happiness. After all, the Scriptures do say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

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