For years church leaders have lamented church consumers, and rightly so. Church consumers treat their local churches like a country club; they have paid their fees and deserve a certain level of service in return. They threaten to join another club if things are not to their liking. Church consumers are not motivated by the mission but by themselves. Church consumers gather to evaluate, not to worship.
And while we must continually consume the Word of God and His grace, church consumers are not focused on His Word and His grace. They are obsessed with their own preferences, so they look to the church to provide those to them.
Church leaders often complain about consumers, but the reality is “menus” create consumers.
A menu approach to ministry is similar to a restaurant. People are offered long lists of programs and activities. Often new ones are added to appease someone who wants something new on the menu. Thus, churches with menus grow more and more complex. And as they do, people can subtly learn a message: “There are lots of things for me to choose from, surely there is something I will like, and if not, I can just ask someone to make me a new dish.”
A map approach to ministry is very different. Church leaders want to take people somewhere—toward maturity in Christ—and they provide a process to grow. They articulate a clear direction and they invite people on the adventure.
We must celebrate and never move away from consuming God’s grace and His Word. But if we create consumers of preferences, we should ask ourselves if we have offered a menu or a map.