Monday, September 1, 2008

Consumerism and Choosing a Church: My Dilemma

The other day I commented on some of Robert Bellah’s work in Habits of the Heart. Here is an excerpt:

“Bellah also comments on the American phenomenon of revivalism saying, “the emphasis on personal experience would eventually override all efforts at church discipline. Already in the eighteenth century, it was possible for individuals to find the form of religion that best suited their inclination. By the nineteenth century, religious bodies had to compete in a consumers’ market and grew or declined in terms of changing patterns of individual religious tastes” (233).

It is the last sentence I want to consider today. If you are a frequent visitor you may know that Karina and I have recently relocated to Grand Forks North Dakota. We are in the process of searching for a new church. Bellah’s statement though has troubled me for a while. How does one search for a new church without the consumer mentality of “church shopping.” What factors should we consider? Do our hopes for what we want in a church constitute us as consumers? When I have recently shopped for a new vehicle I want something that has good gas mileage, safety, roof rack for our bikes. And we have a “want list” for our church too…people in our age range, medium to high liturgy, and small groups top our list.

Is my want list any different than anyone else with say a preference for “good worship music and band”? Are aesthetics ok to consider?

Should the question be considered in relation to the purpose of the church and what ones role is within it?

Any thoughts?