In his new book, I Will, (B&H Publishing Group) Thom Rainer charts some of the reasons for what he terms the “terrible shift to the preference driven church.” These are some challenging words.
“I can’t put a specific date on it. Smarter people than I have tried to explain it. Somewhere in the twentieth century, believers, particularly in America, began to shift from an attitude of self-sacrificing service to God and worship of God, to consumer-focused, self-serving attitudes.
It has been a terrible shift.
Some blame it on the secularization of our culture. Others point to the degradation of theology in our churches. Still others say local church leaders themselves have taken on corporate models and turned our churches into consumer-focused organizations.
There is probably some truth in all three explanations. But there is one thing we can say with certainty: the focus in too many of our church worship services is not on God. We are focused on our own selves, our own needs, and our own preferences. See if some of these comments from church members hit home. They come straight from my blog at ThomRainer.com.
That music is not the style I’m accustomed to hearing. If they don’t change things, I’m leaving this church. Wars over worship styles have taken their toll on many of our congregations. Churches have split. Members have stop attending. Church business meetings have turned into verbal brawls. Pastors and worship leaders have been forced out of their jobs.
No, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have our own preferences about worship and music styles. And we should certainly be given freedom to provide input about those matters. But I know the lack of civility, the harsh words, and divided churches cannot be ascribed to worship. Those are sinful and self-serving behaviors.
I don’t like the pastor’s preaching. Okay, let me be clear here. You certainly should expect your pastor to preach the Word. But preference-driven church members have different agendas. They want the sermon to be their preferred length. They want their pastor to emulate the latest and most popular podcast preacher. Indeed, many church members would like to assign their own texts and topics to be preached each week. Their agenda is not about worshipping God when the Word of God is preached. To the contrary, their agenda is about themselves. Their focus has turned from God to self. They are not worshipping God with fellow believers.
I am not comfortable in the worship services. ‘Someone is sitting in my pew.’ ‘The cushions on the chair are not comfortable.’ ‘I don’t like the times of the services.’ ‘The music is too loud.’ ‘We have to sit too close together.’
You get the picture. The time of corporate worship is about me, myself, and I. It is about my needs, my preferences, and my wants. It’s hard to find God in this scenario. It is all about us. It’s not all about God.” (pp. 30-32)
I Will is a hardcover with 128 pages and sells for $12.99.
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the largest Christian resource companies in the world. Also a respected pastor and researcher, he has written more than twenty books and coauthored the No. 1 best seller Simple Church. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons, several grandchildren, and live in Nashville, Tennessee.