Costco Church

 In Pastor Jeff's Blog

One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple….Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple. – Luke 14:25-27, 33

I confess – I love Costco. I pay a small membership fee, show my card at the door and shop ‘til I drop whenever I want. I can eat my fill of food samples and leave without buying a single thing. I can walk in to buy a gallon of milk and leave with a cart filled with things I didn’t even know I wanted. The meat, produce and baked goods are to die for. And the liquor department. Yeah, don’t even get me started.

But my love for Costco ends when it becomes the dominant model for what it means to be Church.

Jesus’ call to follow him lays claim to our lives, but too often we treat it like a Costco membership. We pay a small membership fee (maybe) and then shop for religious goods and services. We complain when our Costco Church doesn’t carry what we want (a riveting sermon, the music we like, an entertaining kid’s program, good coffee, etc.) and move our membership to the Sam’s Club Church down the road if we’re really feeling under-served.

We’re all guilty of this. Heck, I’m a pastor and I’m guilty of evaluating worship services by what I got out of it, rather than wondering what God got out of it. That’s what we do when we belong to the Costco Church.

I’m convinced that one of the many reasons that the Church in America is in decline is because we’ve allowed consumerism to put our wants and needs at the center, rather than God’s desires. The lie of consumerism is that we’ll be happier and more fulfilled if we put ourselves at the center and fill ourselves, but Jesus taught that putting ourselves at the center is the quickest way to lose ourselves and the real joy of living. He put it this way, “If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” (Matthew 10:38-39).

I enjoy my Costco membership. But when it comes to following Jesus I’m working on leaving the shopping cart behind, and picking up a servant’s towel instead.

Watch this hysterical John Crist video for the ultimate in consumer-driven church.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.

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  • Tom & Jan Standke

    Prince of Peace is both Costco and Sam’s for my wife and me. It seems that each week the message was directed specifically at one of us, and often both of us. We thank God that he directed us to POP.

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