Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Church Shopping

Bryan at CtC has put his finger on one of the things that is fast destroying protestant churches. The idea of church shopping. It is unfortunate the discussion has drifted in the direction of people finding parishes they like. It does that often. It misses the point. What happens when protestants shop for churches is that everything is up for grabs. They can choose between a Calvinist church to an Armenian church and not even consider the theological differences between the two. When Catholics choose between parishes they are choosing between two different expressions of the same faith. They typically are both under the same bishop. With protestants you are choosing between different faiths.

It was not always so. When I was a young adult I remember having a conversation in which I said that if I moved to another city I would look up the local Christian Reformed church and join it. I had that loyalty back then. It was already breaking down among many young adults at that time, around 1990. Now it is harder to find.

That is bad but the flip side is worse. When churches focus on bringing in the church shoppers.Most of them do focus on this. Many pastors measure their success almost entirely by how many people they have attending their services as compared with other protestant churches. But the people they are trying to attract care about the gospel only at the most shallow level. They want a bible church that preaches salvation by faith in Jesus. Pretty much everything else is up for grabs. There is a lot of trust put in the pastors.

So you have this circle. The pastors focus on the people and the people focus on the pastors. God can get squeezed out. Not really squeezed out but re-imagined in a way that makes Him fit nicely into this church pastor's community focus and the church community's pastor focus.

Does this effect their theology? How could it not. For example, most protestants believe that worship style does not matter. Whatever worship experience works for you is OK with God. Is that in the bible? No. The bible has precise instructions for worship and sacrifice that were expected to be followed closely. In fact, the very nature of worship demands we come to God on His terms and not ours. So why do most protestants believe without question something that goes against scripture and logic? Because it allows them to have the Sunday morning experience they want.

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