People have described some of the contemporary practices within evangelicalism as being driven by consumerism. We can see evidences of this with many of the popular devices that are employed, whether it be in the altering of vocabulary, the transition from preaching to conversations, the emphasis upon felt needs rather than spiritual needs, the polling of unbelievers as to how church should be conducted, a deemphasis upon doctrine, a redefinition of Jesus as weak and effeminate, and an idolatrous portrayal of a God who’s love is able to trump his righteousness. Regrettably, all of these things are common today.
Even here in Omaha we have seen a confessionally evangelical church, with a history of teaching the Bible, hang up pictures of the Pope and encourage believers to be more like him. Proponents of this type of reproachable compromise argue that such things are done to attract the large Catholic community that surrounds the church.
In effort to create something that is universally accepted by all, even unbelievers and heretics, such people are unwittingly making themselves irrelevant. The church is supposed to be different, we are supposed to have distinct contours that reflect our God who has called out us of the world and given us the same message to proclaim to a world who does not know him.
Nashville is Ironically Similar to St. Louis
It is ironic to me, when considering this problem, that many evangelicals have much in common with an industry they despise. I see a great similarity between the American evangelical church and the major American Beer manufacturers.
Most beer people will tell you that aside from a few minor variances American Beer (particularly light beer) tastes the same. It lacks flavor, it is low in alcoholic content, and it is painfully watered down. American evangelicalism likewise has become incredibly bland, lacking a punch, and is too, painfully watered down.
I can go to the local Southern Baptist megachurch (Bud-Light) and receive the same flavorless biblical preaching that I can receive at the local E-Free megachurch (Michelob Light). This of course is with the exception of some variant marketing slogans and aesthetics.
It seems as though the evangelical church is learning ministry from the beer industry. They have a product that is so diluted and so non-distinct but is so well marketed that when people are in the mood for church they will imbibe without being offended, however, it will only make them feel better temporarily, untl the Sunday morning buzz wear’s off.
Calvinism the Import
On the other hand you have the Micro-Brews & imports. These guys are the Reformed wing of the church. They have unabashed loyalty to flavor, historic craftsmanship, and integrity with the trade.
I once heard Jim Koch, the founder and CEO of Samuel Adams, say that “We make beer for people who like flavor. If you do not like flavor, you will not like Sam Adams.” (my paraphrase).
The Reformed movement cares more about the product than the consumer. The glory of God trumps the comfort of the ‘seeker’. It seeks to faithfully produce authentic and flavorful preaching, teaching and living to the glory of God.
However, just as Sam Adams, Guinness, and others are not for everyone, apparently the same is true with Reformed theology. Many people complain that Calvinists are too strong-minded, to doctrinal, too mean, and too much into theology.
I recently heard D.A. Carson say that Willow Creek has not grown in years and have now begun trying to jump into other streams to attract people. Conversely, Reformed theology is growing in this country (so are the Micro-brews and imports).
Apparently people like substance and authenticity. Instead of being flavored water, it is high time that the church, the very people who are supposed and expected to be different, would step up and be who they are called to be, distinct, refreshing, flavorful and enjoyable.