Monday, January 17, 2011

Customers or Contributors?

This weekend I helped my mother move to Sunnyvale, closer to us. Predictably, it involved ‘dealings’ with the phone, utility, and Internet bureaucracies (called “service providers”?). To deal with these behemoths nowadays, you have to traverse a maze of robotic relations. A simple change of address at the Post Office now must be done online. It turned out to be a daunting task! Does anyone else think that “face-to-face,” “tell-me-how-I-can-help-you” customer service has gone the way of the typewriter?

Of course that doesn’t keep us from wanting it! In fact, there has been an increasing value placed on customer satisfaction in the American church, with potential members looking for safe and fun childcare, convenient parking, and free coffee—not to mention expectations of family-friendly programs to occupy discretionary time. While customer service in the market place wanes, the American church waxes full of it! Are we attracting “worshippers” or loyal customers?’

When exactly did American evangelicalism convert to consumerism? The church-according-to-Paul was always intended to be a place to contribute
(Ro. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4), not to consume. In fact, Paul clearly excludes the latter by declaring ‘only as each person makes his own contribution to help the others grow will the church be healthy, growing, and full of love’ (Eph. 4:16). How do you distinguish between the two? Customers show up Sunday morning to be entertained. Contributors are there on Wednesday night to be better equipped to help others. Is it time for a little self-examination?

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