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Consumer Culture…in the Church

Recently I’ve been led to believe I’m an expert at almost everything. I receive multiple requests each week to evaluate my doctor, my treatment by the wait staff, how well the clerk did at Staples, whether my mechanic was friendly and competent, was my order filled correctly, and on and on and on.

I know surveys don’t really mean I’m an expert on health care, education, mechanical prowess, or anything else. Surveys only measure my level of satisfaction with the way I was treated. Did I perceive that I was valued, respected…yada, yada, yada.

But, make no mistake, I’ve been assured my opinion matters. I‘m doubtful any real change occurs…but of this I’m certain: those surveys further reinforce our consumer culture. Don’t get me wrong, I value good service, attentive caregivers, and accurate attention to detail. But there is a serious downside to this emphatic fortification of our already narcissistic expectations.


“There is a serious downside to this emphatic fortification of our already narcissistic expectations.”


Three years ago (August & October), following knee replacement, I was “forced” to walk on my new knee(s) as soon as I was awake. I was “forced” to do rigorous physical therapy every day for weeks. Unfortunately for my caregivers, my satisfaction survey impacted how much they received from my insurance.

Therein is the dilemma. Do nurses “force” you to do what is best for you, for your optimum recovery, or do they treat you in a way that will produce the best “survey results.” The difference determines a full recovery versus a failed procedure.

I mean, really, who wants a dentist who won’t hurt your feelings by telling you that you have a cavity. Or a mechanic who doesn’t want to alarm you by telling you that your brakes need replaced. A little reflection will multiply those examples and reinforce the point that my satisfaction may not be the most critical factor.


“My satisfaction may not be the most critical factor.”


In the world of the church, this invitation to become the consummate critic makes it impossible for churches to carry out their mission…they are too busy trying to appease the preferences of their consumers. Worshippers no longer arrive determined to worship…instead, they allow their satisfaction with the music, the worship leader, the presence/absence of particular instruments (etc., etc., etc.) to dictate their response to God. Preachers refrain from identifying the truth needing applied to a situation because they must be sure no offense is felt by their listeners.

Folks, our satisfaction is not the ultimate measure. We should not allow our opinions to hold church leaders (spouses, parents/children, co-workers, teachers, caregivers) hostage. We must not allow our personal preferences to interfere with our parenting, our marital efforts, our generosity, or our worship.


“We should not allow our opinions to hold church leaders hostage.”


Declaring our allegiance to Jesus requires a submissive spirit, one that recognizes that purpose outweighs preference. Otherwise, we continue to fall prey to the lie that we are unparalleled in knowing what’s best for us and others. And what’s needed most is available least.

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