I came to work today and turned on my computer. These are the first two things that came my way:
1. an email from my pastor, calling a special meeting of all the staff to decide whether or not we should put a poll in our upcoming newsletter about worship times (we just started a new schedule this fall), since a small but vocal group of people have expressed dislike not just for the new schedule, but for having two services instead of one (even though they've had two services here for a while)
2. this post about tween culture that should have struck me as merely informative, but instead struck me as a potential attempt to advocate using the tools of the culture - business and advertising models - to talk about evangelism
These two things might not seem all that related at first glance. But they share one important thing in common: they both want to seek out the perceived wants and needs of "consumers" and use that information to determine how to craft our mission around them. They both have to do with market research.
Doesn't this seem backwards? Why should the church-at-large be so quick to adopt practices that give the people what they want rather than giving the people what they actually need? When does the church stop being about God and about the gospel and instead starts being "all about me?"
Our culture is already super-saturated with glossy, shiny, sleek, targeted, manipulative, market-driven means of identifying the weaknesses of consumers in order to market to them products that "fill their needs." We're already good at collecting data on what people consume in order to make decisions about what else to feed them. It's habit, really, to determine a target audience or to create a strategy to entice particular consumer groups.
But shouldn't the church be a place where we can take a break from all of that?
In the past years, I've stood up for the functional, business-side of church and the practical demands placed on pastors - that is, the necessity of budgets and finances and church councils and administration and such - and I'm not necessarily rescinding my feelings about that. I do believe that there are practical things that have to happen to keep churches open and functioning, and that as unfortunate as it may be, pastors often have to be concerned with those things.
But I'm not down with making the church as slick and glossy as a multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercial. I'm not ready to replace "evangelism" with "marketing." I'm not ready to replace "community of faith" with "target audience."
The good news - the gospel message - has to do with being free from the brokenness we experience in the world. Why, then, would the church by into the antics of the very systems against which it was set up as an alternative?