Christian culture is obsessed with church growth. Churches want badly to “get their numbers up,” so some churches hire marketing teams to assess their fitness (their actual term) and tell them how to be culturally relevant. The goal is to get people in the door and make them come back.
They put espresso stands in the lobby and get some ambient lighting so Kids These Days don’t feel like they’re in one of those churches full of dorks. They don’t want to be like those churches with fluorescent overhead lighting cause that’s super lame. Those churches sing hymns and their pastors wear suits, and church marketing statistics say only old people like those. The church marketing stats also say that people decide if they’ll come back to a church within the first three minutes of their visit, so they’ve really gotta work those first three minutes.
They want to make their church feel like you’re at a concert, so they have a stage lighting ministry and play the music really loud. The pastor tries to look cool (as we’ve discussed here and here) and uses high school jargon and so he can be relevant. And he wants the worship band to be extra rad. The worship leader tries to get a Fleet Foxes/The Fray/Death Cab vibe going. He holds auditions for the worship team and picks the ones with flat-ironed hair and guyliner. It’s important that they look sincere when they sing, but scarves, vests and grommet belts help. Okay, so. What are some edgy names for an epic sermon series? What will get the most people in the door? We have to get our numbers up and grow this sucker or else it means God isn’t blessing our ministry! Numbers! Tithing! Relevance! U2! Discipleship models! The reformation! Leadership! Authentic! Contextual! Twitter! iPhone! Sick website! Innuendos from the pulpit about sex with my wife! In the world, but not of it!
Their mission statement sounds solid and they say they’re all about Jesus but some churches seem awfully impressed with themselves. Being hip and raising money for new buildings seems like the focus instead of being broken by the message of the Gospel. But if Jesus loved the sick and the poor and drew near to the brokenhearted, and if he was a servant to the least and walked into their lonely worlds, and if his love went to their dark corners when they did not expect it or even ask for it, is he harder to find in churches where image is king?