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What does the customer want?

David Wells on the consumerism of the church marketers:


If we are going to market the church and its gospel, where are we going to start? We start, of course, with our customer. What does the customer want? . . .

One of the ways of making the experience of going to church more pleasant is to offer choice. . . . Having a wide array of choices is, after all, the way the world is going.

It once was that a person who wanted to listen to music went to a public performance and there listened to the whole selection being played by the orchestra or band. Then came records, which made it possible, though not convenient, to select one of the songs and not listen to the others. However, it required some effort and dexterity. Then came CDs in which the selection of the songs was much easier. Finally, in came iPods, where the unwanted songs do not even appear and do not have to be selected “out.” Why can’t we have something like this in the church? That is what I, the consumer, really want. I want to be able to select what I hear and choose what I do in church. Why should worship not be customized, consumers and pastors alike are asking?

This, in fact, is exactly what a number of churches are now facilitating. They are aiming to please. Instead of offering the set two-, three-, four-, or five-course meal for everyone, they are letting people choose which aspects of worship they want. Customers can choose between different themes in worship, or different activities, or different styles in different parts of the building. It is much more like a buffet than a set meal. That way people can choose which aspect of worship suits them best on that particular day. If all they want to do is pray, then let them pray in a room in the building. If they want to watch a video, let them watch a video.

—David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Eerdmans, 2008), 28–30.

This kind of “church” has no appeal to me. I don’t want to be entertained. I don’t want to hear jokes (I can think frivolously enough on my own, thank you). I don’t want noise, and I don’t want a show. I want music that is reverent in tone and rich in theology. More, I want God’s Word preached. I want all of it—not just the happy parts; not just the exciting parts; not just the encouraging parts; not just the promises. I want the sad parts; the terrifying parts; the convicting parts; the heart-breaking parts. I want the whole counsel of God brought to bear on my mind and life.

Why is that? Is it because I’m so intelligent, wise, righteous, or mature? Is it because I’m in some way better than those who flock to these houses of merchandise? Not likely. It can only be because of who I am as a new creature in Christ. These are the things that one who is in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit desires, and loves. Because I have been born from above, I have an appetite for heavenly things, and anything less leaves me hungry.

I can’t help concluding that the vast majority of those who fill the seeker-sensitive consumer-oriented “churches” are simply unregenerate. How else could they stand it?

Posted 2008·08·28 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Church Marketing · David Wells · The Courage to be Protestant

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