Nearly every retailer I frequent asks me to complete an online feedback survey. And sometimes I do complete one, especially when doing so gets me a free cup of coffee or a free cookie (I like free). And the essence of the surveys is always the same. Companies want to know if they’re making me happy by fulfilling my needs. Did they make my sandwich right? Is their location convenient? Was my beverage the right temperature? Was I greeted upon arrival? Were the facilities clean?
No doubt, this is a good business strategy, but I sometimes wonder if this mindset isn’t killing the church. Consider:
1. The relationship between church and church member is not the same as between business and customer. Local church members are not the “customers” of the church. We are the church.
2. Businesses cater to the needs of customers. The church doesn’t primarily exist to cater to the needs of members. While pastors and staff are called to “equip the saints for ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) the real “customers” of the church are God (who receives our worship and praise) and the world that God so loved (whom we, as the church, are called to love).
3. Businesses exist to make a profit. The church exists to serve God’s mission. God, not the church, should primarily “profit” from the work of the church.
4. The relationship between business and customer is transactional. Businesses provide goods and services and people are willing to pay for them. But God’s transaction for the sake of all humanity was completed on the cross. Everything we do as the church is in response to what’s already been done, not on what we think we’re still owed.
5. The ultimate question of a customer is, “Am I satisfied?” The ultimate question of a disciple is “Am I faithful?”
Do church members sometimes need to be served by the church? Absolutely. But when member satisfaction trumps God’s mission and our faithfulness the church is in serious trouble. That may sound terribly harsh to you, and counter to what you believe to be true. I’m guessing the crowd and disciples thought the same about these words from Jesus:
Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” – Mark 8:34-35
There are at least three questions I’m pretty sure Jesus never asked his disciples:
Am I fulfilling your needs?
What can I do to make you happy?
Does this robe make me look fat?
I love serving in a church where often the focus is on God’s mission and not on us. Check out this video of a recent example.
How have you seen the “customer satisfaction” mentality manifest itself in the church? And how do we most effectively address this concern? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.