Religious Consumers

Jeffrey MacDonald wrote an article in USA Today a couple of weeks ago regarding church websites and their use in attracting people to different faith communities. He pointed out all the numbers that show more and more churches are using websites — 20-percent of one California-based provider’s clients today are churches as compared to just five percent five years ago — and relayed mostly anecdotal evidence to say more people use websites to go “church shopping.”

The article quotes a webmaster at an Arizona church who says their website helps people feel a connection to the church. “Just like people do a lot of car shopping and major purchase shopping online, they see what they can find out about the church online before their decision to come.”

He also quotes a religious sociologist, Scott Thumma, who says websites are the number one tool today for churches. “Having a website allows the religious consumer to be a much more informed consumer. If people can find a congregation that fits their needs and their interests, they’re more likely to make a commitment.”

When did we begin referring to church and religion and Christianity in the same ways we refer to buying a TV or making a decision to join a health club? Why isn’t that notion challenged? And isn’t it that notion that’s killing us?

John West has done a tremendous job of remodeling and updating our church website at Legacy. If you haven’t been there in a while, please, take a couple of minutes and tool around  If you’re a ministry leader or teacher at Legacy, or if you just have some great pictures, I encourage you to please contact John or Suzanne here at the office and let them tell you how to be involved in updating your specific area of the website. Our church website is, indeed, a valuable tool. It keeps us informed as a local body of believers. It aids us in connecting to each other as a church family. It provides that basic information visitors need. And it sends a powerful message about the Christ and his church to a desperate and dying world. I love our website, especially now. I urge you to visit it. Get involved with it. They’re updating it every day. Use it.

We’re hoping to, very soon, put audio sermons on the site. Maybe even someday stream live video of our Sunday assemblies. The sky’s the limit.

But may we never view the website or our programs — even Small Groups Church — or our ministries or our assemblies or our fellowship dinners as something to be bargained or negotiated when choosing a church. Or when choosing Jesus. Finding a congregation that meets my needs and serves my interests is not Christianity. It’s something else. It’s how we choose a restaurant or a movie theater, not a church. God’s church, the one he purchased with the blood of his Son, is a community. It’s a group of people united by the blood of the King helping and encouraging each other in our walks with Jesus. Christianity, discipleship to our Savior, is about submission — submission to God and to each other. Religion is an act of courage. It’s surrendering and being vulnerable to others and to Christ. It’s difficult. And it’s messy. And it’s uncomfortable.

If it’s entirely pleasing and simple and satisfying and comfortable, I’m afraid it’s not real.


PayRodChartYou have to read Mike Lupica’s column today to get a real feel for what the people in New York really think about A-Fraud. You can read it by clicking here. And if you click on that chart to the left, you can read more numbers and quotes that further illustrate the ideas in the column. He points out Pay-Rod’s postseason numbers — 4-15 with one RBI this season, 1-14 last year, 2-15 in ’05. But he also speaks to Rodriguez’ demeanor and personality in the clubhouse that alienate him from his teammates, his coaches, the media, and pretty much all of baseball. Kinda like Barry Bonds, but in a different, maybe more subtle, way. I’m convinced there’s absolutely no way Hicks brings this clown back to Arlington. No way. He couldn’t give this guy even more money and then sell it to Rangers fans. The A-Fraud experience here was that horrible. We don’t have to worry about it happening again. But Lupica’s column is pretty good.




  1. Rob's Dad

    I’m chewing on this one since I didn’t go to a college that had Christian in the title. How do you select a congregation? If, as you stated above,”… it is a community of believers united by the blood of the King, helping and encouraging each other…” then how do you select one church over another? Prayerful consideration is a given, but why this one instead of another? This isn’t specific to Legacy or the website (which John has done a huge amount with) or the kid’s programs or small groups or anything, but rather the philosophical question of why this groups of believers instead of that group of believers?

  2. Allan

    Perhaps I’m aiming more at the concept of “church-hopping” than I am “church-shopping,” although, obviously, the two are closely related. Choosing churches or changing churches based on personal preferences and “what am I going to get out of it” flies directly in the face of the basic, foundational principles of Christianity: service to others, ministry to others, submission to others.

    It seems our loyalties are only to ourselves. And it’s especially a concern in DFW where there’s a church or two on every corner. Loyalty to and commitment to a church family mean very little with the continual threat of leaving for greener pastures or louder kids programs or bigger parking lots or a better preacher hanging over the group. When a commitment is made to a church family based on what I can do for that family and that community, roots are established, trust is earned, and the body is edified. When it’s based on me, it’ll never be enough.

  3. Jenn

    I’m with you, Allan. I think it is about “church-hopping” and not church shopping. Don’t you look up a church to attend when you are out of town? As a member of a family that has moved 6+ times to areas where we have known not a soul, the internet is a great source of help in finding different churches. We had a list (it was short) but we had a list of places that we were going to visit when we moved here in Jan. We came to Legacy and after meeting the family here, we were hooked. Someone asked me if we minded placing membership at a congregation where we hadn’t even heard the new preacher speak yet and I told her (sorry, Allan)”It’s not about the preacher, it’s about what we are bringing to the worship with our God, it’s not about us, it’s about Him”….I totally think you get out of things what you put into them….not that you aren’t doing a bang up job, we just had never heard you preach before we decided to place membership. The Sunday we placed membership was the first time we had heard you…pretty funny that we stayed, eh?

  4. Allan

    Ah, but it was AFTER you heard me that you placed membership!!!! Got ya!!!

    Let’s take “church shopping” and “church hopping” together. The point I wanted to make applies to both.

    I don’t think you can devise a “grid” based on Bible or personal convictions or anything and then judge every single case based on where it fits on the grid. I think that’s impossible.

    You can pick a church based on “my needs” if by “my needs” you mean my needs to serve others, to reach out to others, to encourage others, and to grow more fully into the image of Christ. Then, yes, one should make a decision based on “my needs.” But don’t “my needs” more frequently, and even unapologetically, mean the worship assembly must be upbeat or we must sing my favorite kinds of songs and the preacher must be funy and they have to have a strong women’s program and the youth minister must be cool? That’s the kind of think I’m talking about.

    If programs and personalities rule the day and determine the direction one takes in being a member of a church family, then there’s no stability. That threat of leaving is constant. Church leaders feel that threat and so they focus on the programs and personalities to keep people from leaving. And there’s that vicious cycle.

    Breaking that cycle means focusing on Christ and others. Philippians 2.

    Is this too idealistic? I haven’t been doing this long enough to think any other way.

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