How Did We Get There?
I am still thinking about C.B.S. News Sunday Morning Program (Oct. 6, 2009) segment on “Faith in America” when they reported that “Americans shop for churches like they shop for everything else. They are consumers. It is what is best for me.”
History: The local church anchored communities during the nineteen and early twentieth centuries in America, basically because of transportation. Although a Methodist church was at one end of town, a Presbyterian church at the other, and a Catholic parish in between, people whom you lived with seven days a week were part of the church family. The church was not only the spiritual life of a community, but also the social life.
Toward the end of the century, schools became the social centers of activities. Families, now mobile because everyone had a car, now became transient, even when deciding where to worship.
Since the beginning of this century, church hopping is common. The mega-church could offer services that small congregations could not touch: more professional music, all kinds of specialized small and support groups, social activities on a grander scale, huge youth groups, super children churches, etc. Small churches based on generations of local families began to witness a decline in attendance. They just couldn’t compete.
Today people do “shop” for churches. What do they look for? What is best for them! If the church offers a super children’s church and I have small children, I’ll come, or an out standing Youth Group if I have teens. More up beat music sounding like one hears all week on secular stations beats out heavy pipe organ blasts. Big screen projection, super sound system, stage presence for choir or worship band, lighting, theatrical productions, as well as church web pages, blogging, a Facebook page, twittering, and following an online presentation of the sermon attracts the techno-generation, supported by huge staffs and inflated budgets. The small church with aged hymnals, an old electric organ, a subpar sound system, a staff of one, and strapped financial resources can’t compete.
Churches are trying to “create” “community” through their structure and programs, something most churches have losing since they aren’t locally community based anymore. The mindset is for the “staff” to offer all things to meet “my needs”, the “consumer’s”! And it is working!
What ever happened to humility, selflessness, loving your actual “neighbor”, and commitment to those believers that live in your local community or neighborhood? Shouldn’t “how can I serve you” replace “what is in my best interest?” What every happened to I John 3:16: “You know love by this, that you will lay down your life for your brethren.” We might have to rethink our motives and mindsets to get out of the American “consumer” mentality and back into the Kingdom of God mentality!