A hefty indictment has been leveled against modern worship services in the past years. The term “consumer-driven” has emerged as the front-runner for describing what we as worshipers have created. In a well intentioned desire to be relevant, attractive, and welcoming, we have served up a worship service that is geared mostly toward the idea that worshipers are best viewed as customers coming to consume.
I’ve even heard the term “customer service” come out of the mouths of church leaders when they’re talking about caring for people we’ve been entrusted by God with. And you know what? I get it. I understand why a local church should position itself as a place of refreshment, enjoyment, and acceptance. I get why we should seek to make people feel at home, feel welcome, and feel at ease.
But at what expense? It seems far too often that its at the expense of forgetting an even bigger, far more important truth.
I have no problem creating a “consumer-driven” worship experience as long as we agree that God is the consumer. God is the one to be focused on. God is the one to be adored. God is the one to be made welcome. Consumer-driven? Sure. As long as God is consuming us instead of us consuming our preferential entertainment and calling it worship. THAT’S the only kind of consumer-driven worship I can get behind.
Hebrews 12:29: “for our God is consuming fire.”
1 Corinthians 6:20: “You were bought with a price…”
1 Corinthians 7:23: “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.”
Sounds a lot like God is the purchaser here, doesn’t it? So how are Christians reckoning themselves as the center of attention? As the ones consuming? As the ones to be catered to?
Do I think churches should do all they can to be engaging, to meet needs, to embrace anyone and everyone who comes to worship, to go all out in creating an atmosphere of love and acceptance? Absolutely. But in our quest to win the guest, we have lost our grip on Who is to be the ultimate object of our affection and attention.
Bill Hybels has made Willow Creek famous for this. For all intents and purposes, the concept of “seeker friendly worship” was coined at Willow Creek. Its now commonly referred to as the “Willow Creek model” of ministry. Popular? Sure. Effective? It surely can be effective at certain things. But it can also be taken to the extent where we lose sight of the One we are worshiping in exchange for the comfort of those who come to worship.
What do you think? Am I off? Where have you seen consumer-driven ministry? Can this approach be done “right”?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.