By its very nature Consumer Church has as its main goal reaching those they consider consumers. But who is the “consumer?” Since the Consumer Church identifies them as the “unchurched” – the consumer becomes those who do not presently attend a church in whatever area a church is located. Therefore the message of Consumer Church becomes, “Come to church.” This may sound like a good message at first – but when placed beside the biblical message of salvation – it is found wanting. THE message of the church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It matters little if someone is coming to church (i.e. they have become “churched”) if they are still in their sin. They will stand before God with a church membership certificate – and maybe even a church t-shirt and hat – but that will do nothing to pay for their sins against a holy God.
Another thing that is normative about Consumer Church is how they use polls among the unchurched to find out what they need to do in ministry. Thus the message of Consumer Church is in some ways constantly morphing due to the “felt needs” or desires of the unchurched in its area. This is evident as Consumer Church changes regularly to accommodate the desires of those in the community. What is truly sad is when change is embraced even on a theological level. This is where Consumer Church becomes dangerous to those who attend. It is possible in seeking to be “relevant” to society that we find ourselves irrelevant to God.
The message of the church – at least the true church – has not changed since its inception over 2000 years ago. The message of the church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is that man is a sinner by nature and by choice. Sin separates us from God – and requires God’s just punishment for what man has done. The only way that punishment can be paid by men – is for them to pay it forever in hell. The good news is that God Himself provided a payment for sin – and that was accomplished at the cross where Jesus took sin upon Himself and paid to the uttermost its horrible price. He was buried and resurrected from the dead after 3 days. God, through this amazing grace, now saves those who respond to the gospel with repentance and faith. That is – has been – and always will be the message of the church. It will never change for all eternity.
The message of salvation from sin and the wrath of God through Jesus Christ is the message of the church. Regardless of how the unchurched feel about this message – it is the only way of salvation available. When Consumer Church conforms to the desires of the unchurched, it is preaching a message of self rather than salvation. The “self-life” is something the New Testament identifies as sin. The self-life does not need to be something we cater to in the church, it is rather something to be exposed (Both in the lost and the saved – because even those redeemed by Jesus can become selfish and self-centered in their lives as well as in church). Give any honest survey of what Jesus teaches in your community and people will not be happy with Jesus. They will not like Him calling them to die to themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. They will not like Him saying that to be His disciple they will have to hate their father and mother, wife and children, and even their own lives. They definitely won’t care for His statement, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” That is WAY too exclusive for most of the “unchurched.” Throw in a healthy helping of Him affirming what happened at Sodom and Gomorrah, a six-day long creation, as well as Him stating that He is God, and you’ll have a poll that makes it clear that the world would like a different Messiah. What is truly fascinating is that this was the problem in the first place – that the world rejected Him because He didn’t compromise Who He was or what He was to do. He didn’t take a poll to guide Him into His purpose and plan – that He received from the Father (God as exclusively masculine also doesn’t poll well nowadays either).
Please understand that I am NOT saying that the church should be inflexible when it comes to putting the gospel into the context of each society and culture where it is preached. Paul spoke of being all things to all men – but that never included the message of the gospel itself. It never included God’s call for us to be a holy and separate people. It never included an escape clause from being conformed to the image of Christ in our attitudes and actions. But when it comes to things clearly taught in the Scriptures – we do not have the luxury of changing or ignoring them without great loss on our part. The message of the church will forever be salvation by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – whether a cultural and societal survey likes it or not.