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What am I bid?

For more than a decade now, the phrase ‘consumer church’ or ‘consumer mentality’ has been used as a shorthand way of referring to a type of church and, indeed, a type of Christian.

In simple terms, it refers to an approach where key questions for a believer are: How will this church please me? Does this church provide and tell me what I like? How will I be served and satisfied by being part of this church?

It’s an approach that seems to place ‘self’ in front of God and make the worship experience about personal preferences. This has led to an increase in church ‘shopping’, where a Christian moves from church to church as they ‘try on’ different ones and decide which one to ‘buy’.

I was wondering: what if we decided to go more fully into a consumer mentality and really made church a shopping experience?

You buy a ticket, which reserves your seat, and you pick up some popcorn in the church foyer on the way in. The worship leader welcomes the congregation and says, “We can do ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ or ‘How Great is Our God’. What am I bid and for which song?’

Members of the congregation call out dollar bids and name their choice of song. How Great is Our God wins, with a bid of $65. The corps’ EFTPOS machine is passed to them; they make payment and then – and only then! – the band starts playing.

Several songs are purchased in the same manner, and then it’s time for the brass band to play their message for the morning. The bandmaster says: “At band practice on Tuesday night, Kevin paid for us to play his favourite piece today, ‘Emblem of the Army’, so here it is.

The offering comes next, and the corps officer gets up to introduce it, saying: “As the offering is collected, please note that it will be counted in a back room immediately. If we have more than $1000, you get the 10-minute sermon. If it’s $500–$1000, you get the 20-minute sermon, and if it’s under $500, you get the 30-minute sermon.”

The offering is taken and – wonderfully! miraculously! – it exceeds $1000. What a generous congregation!

The end of the meeting nears, and the CSM, who is a wonderful singer, announces that she will sing the favourite song of the highest bidder to conclude the meeting. The bids come thick and fast: $100, $150, $180, $200 ...

Finally, it’s settled. The winning bid is $285, and the song chosen by the winner contains a clear biblical reference: it’s ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC. The song itself, of course, doesn’t matter – $285 was raised for mission work. Hallelujah!

Now that’s a real consumer church: saving money, growing the bank balance and serving ourselves.

– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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