I love Seth Godin’s blog. He understands a lot of what is going on in the wider culture and he is gifted in applying these seismic shifts to the world of business and marketing.
Today’s post was a good one on how success comes when the goals of one group align with the goals of another group in a relationship. His first example is Walmart. Godin puts it this way,
“The Walmart relationship: I want the cheapest possible prices and Walmart wants to (actually works hard to) give me the cheapest possible prices. That’s why there’s little pushback about customer service or employee respect… the goals are aligned.”
The outcome is a booming Walmart where people are willing to wait in rediculous lines to buy sub-quality goods with little to no real customer service, and with little disregard for the means by which the goods were created or purchased. The outcome is also two sides walking away feeling happy about the day – Walmart made a profit, I got stuff at the cheapest price possible.
What struck me as I read this, however, was how much this dynamic works in the church. Everyone walking through the doors of a church comes with expectations:
- I want to feel good about my life.
- I want to be challenged to life a moral life.
- I want to hear how awful the world around me is.
- I want to grow closer to God.
and everyone who offers a context for worship does so with their own expectations:
- I want to communicate that God loves you just as you are.
- I want to show you that God wants you to live a more holy life.
- I want you to know that the world around you will be your destruction.
- I want you to grow closer to God.
Where these expectations line up, people find a “good church” but where they don’t people say things like, “That church just doesn’t teach enough of the bible.” or “I’m not growing there.” or “That church is too judgemental.” and we all go trudging along looking for the congregation that lines up with our desires.
And that’s the problem with modeling the church after the business and marketing world.
A person can come to a church with an expectation that they believe to be good and holy and right, and if they find a church that is seeking to deliver to that expectation then they are happy – even if both sides of the equation are wrong. Many people go to church looking to be made to feel guilty about what they are doing in life and it’s really easy to find churches who are willing to preach and teach in such a way that they go away each Sunday feeling wretched about their sin. They can say, “That church teaches the TRUTH and it hurts!” and wear it as a badge of pride…without ever growing or changing into the likeness of Christ in whom God’s glory dwells and shines forth.
This is why we’re called to align ourselves with Christ, and thereby become a part of the church (not the other way around), and the counter-intuitive thing about the alignment with Christ is that it means I have to lay down my expectations and take up his desires for my life. I have to pick up my cross and die to the things I expect to get out of life, out of church, out of God. When we begin to do that, we begin to see one another as a part of a community working together to put on the things of Christ and put off the things of our old, dead life. In that sort of community, we might well disagree with one another about things from time to time, but we’re not going to go shopping for another church to meet our expectations. We’re going to keep on doing life together and figuring out where God leads us to put the pieces together again.
It’s a lot harder to do something like that, than it is to meet my expectations when I walk through the door next Sunday.