During the holidays there is a lot of talk about the big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target. Then just the other day I read about a Christmas Eve service at a satellite campus of the church I used to attend. This got me thinking. Ever since that church bought and built another location it made me think of this “trend” in evangelical churches of today. My job at work is to find trends in the commodities markets, so I am always focused on trends and where things are headed into the future. The trend I am talking about is satellite campuses, which I am not a big fan of (as you would probably know from my love of institutions (sarcasm)).
I guess the brilliant new thing to do if a big church outgrows its current big campus is to replicate what they are doing on their existing campus and start another satellite campus somewhere else (another town, state, or even country). Well this is where my thinking of the big box stores come into play.
As I walked into a big box store the other day to buy a gift for someone, they asked me for my zip code. You know why stores do that? Because if enough people purchase from a certain zip code, or region of zip codes, they will want to build a box store where you live to keep you coming back and consuming their product. This to me is a form of “consumer-based” evangelism.
Well I feel the big box churches are doing the same thing for pretty much the same reason. They want people to keep coming back to their big box and consume their product (Jesus). They do not want to lose the people who drive a far distance to consume at the master campus. So they track the zip codes of members and guests and see where a good fit would be to expand. I also see this as a form of “consumer-based” evangelism, or “seeker-sensitive” for those Christianese speakers out there.
I could be totally wrong about this, but this is what I have observed for years with the church I attended and with the trend of many churches across the US.
The members tell me they are doing it to connect others to know Christ. But, my question is … is Christ the local satellite church you need to attend, or is Christ the people who make up that Body? I am not judging the motives of the people. I am sure their heart is in the right place. But I am still baffled on why a person needs to be invited and become a “member” of a satellite church to know Christ.
As I was perusing the big box store I saw a DVD for the movie Avatar, which reminded me of a teachable moment I had with my son after we enjoyed the best 3-D I have ever seen in a theatre. There was an illustration of the way Christians have been relating to the rest of the world and a wonderful lesson for how they should relate to others. What I said to my son was that many Christians do not relate to the “other” on an equal playing field, or from a position of being equal. Just like in the movie, they made “evangelism” a one way street, just like many Christians have done for many years. They project themselves as the world’s power brokers for God. Their role, and their thinking, was to bring God to places where there is no God. This approach makes Christians look superior to everyone else. The type of “evangelism” that was done in this movie is not much different to the “evangelism” satellite churches are engaged in. Satellite churches are just pushing their doctrinal beliefs on the rest of the new town, state, or country, just like in the movie, they were going into another country and trying to change everything into their way of thinking or doing. (Sounds a lot like our government.. hmmm)
Well I have news for the “consumer-based” evangelists out there … we do not bring God to the “other”, but find God in the other… God is already there, no need to bring Him.