Commercialized Church

“Christmas at [name of church]! Merry Christmas! We can’t wait to see you! Ride our horse carriages, take a photo at the snow booth, stop by the indoor photo booth, grab some hot chocolate or apple cider, coffee or refreshments and enjoy the trumpets in the balcony! Then join us for a great message and music in the auditorium at 10:30am!”

My heart and stomach sank when I saw this Christmas service promotional for a church. I’m also sad that “promotional” is the best word I can think of at the moment. Can we all just admit that there’s a problem when churches look more like commercialized department stores rather than places of worship, and more like places of entertainment than houses of God? Not just this particular church, but any church that feels the need to commercialize. Unfortunately, it’s occurring in many churches.

Every Barna Group and Pew Research study I’ve ever read on the topic makes it very clear that Millennials are leaving the church in droves, and Generation Z is following. Most of the younger members of Gen Z aren’t being brought up in church at all. One would think the first step to take regarding this issue would be to ask Millennials and Gen Z why it is that they’re leaving the church or are uninterested in beginning attendance.

I’ve also read many articles published where these generations were asked about the reasons for leaving and/or not attending a church. From the information I’ve gathered, the main reason is that our generations are not interested in being entertained by the church. If entertainment is what we wanted, we have a whole plethora of options besides church.

We want authenticity. Real authenticity. We want a real relationship with God. We want to be able to question and explore spirituality. We want real relationships and community with other people; not some shallow experience that begins and ends with a Sunday morning greeting.

It is my opinion that if a church has to dig this deep into the sphere of commercialism and entertainment in order to attempt to attract guests, the church seriously needs to reevaluate its strategy. If a church is this reliant on attractions and novelties, it becomes difficult to view what goes on onstage as anything other than a show. It’s distracting. Whatever happened to Jesus and the Gospel being enough? If Jesus and the Gospel aren’t enough for you, dear church, just close your doors because you’re missing the only mark that matters.

Look at the advertisement: “…in the auditorium…” Of course it’s all semantics, but when I think of an auditorium, I think of a place to go see entertainment. A sanctuary is a place where we go to worship and revere our Lord. I point that out only to demonstrate how even language is being selected in a manner to make church more appealing.

Whatever happened to Jesus and the Gospel being enough? If Jesus and the Gospel aren’t enough for you, dear church, just close your doors because you’re missing the only mark that matters.

Church, keep your glitz and novelty acts. If Jesus, the King of kings, came down to earth quietly in the night, surely you don’t need heralding trumpets. If Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, you don’t need horse and chariot escorts in the parking lot. Church, if your elaborate and extravagant schemes are one-upping the Jesus you plan to speak of, it shows that you do not truly understand what the meekness and humility of Jesusfrom birth to death and resurrectionis truly about.

Guilt-Induced and Manipulative Apologies

There are two types of apologies that are unhelpful and negatively impact both the giver and the recipient. It’s time we break free from the habit of saying “sorry” when we really aren’t.

I’ve offered many apologies in my lifetime. Plenty were heartfelt, and I genuinely meant them. I owed them. However, I’m starting to realize that I have also given many apologies that weren’t owed nor did I really mean. I’ve apologized way too many times out of guilt.

Two Types of Guilt-Induced/Manipulative Apologies:

1) A response to someone’s reaction to me.

I’ve spoken what I either believe to be truth or my sincere opinion, and people don’t always react well. When someone doesn’t react well to what I say, I have developed the bad habit of thinking that I owe them an apology. I try to remedy the situation by giving apologies that I don’t truly mean. I don’t owe anyone an apology for speaking my mind or sharing my opinion.

Recently, I had a public discussion about pastor’s salaries. Someone I know read this particular discussion and ended up blocking me on social media. I shouldn’t have felt bad about that. I mean, it’s an overdramatic reaction, in my opinion. However, I did feel bad for their reaction, so I sent a private apology. Not long after, I was wondering why I sent that apology. I didn’t mean it. I wasn’t sorry. I actually still held to my same opinion and views regarding the pastor’s salaries discussion.

I’m working on breaking my habit of feeling like I need to apologize to people who don’t like my personal views and opinions. They’re just thatmy personal views and opinions. Your reaction to them is totally up to you. I’m done feeling guilty about having things to say. I’m also not interested in giving false apologies; even when I do it thinking it’ll help the other person. It won’t. It, ultimately, doesn’t help either of us, and I’m not one to purposefully be disingenuous.

2) A response to my reaction of others.

There’s no telling how many times I’ve apologized to people for how I responded to their actions that hurt me. In other words, I have been apologizing for being hurt by others. This is abusive and manipulative, and no one should ever make you feel like you’re in the wrong for being hurt by someone else and reacting accordingly.

They hurt me.

I react to that hurt.

They get angry because of my reaction to the hurt they caused.

I apologize to them for how I reacted to the hurt they caused.

The initial hurt is never brought up again.

In my experience, this occurred quite frequently in regards to years of psychological and emotional abuse I endured from my brother’s wife, and also from spiritual and emotional abuse that I was receiving in the church environment I was in and from certain church leaders there. The time frame in which there was an overlapping of these events was particularly hellish. It seemed like nonstop “I’m sorry for reacting in hurt when you hurt me.” I drove my mental health into the ground while trying to keep the peace and continuously trying to patch things back together; both with my biological family and with my “church family.” These are the apologies that I never should have given because I never owed them. These are the apologies that should have been given to me but never were.

This is where I had to finally accept many apologies that I never actually received so that I could move on from these people and situations.

Next time, before you apologize, make sure that your motives and reasons are good and correct. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it; save yourself and the other person the false peace and coming confusion. Also, do not apologize for being hurt and/or reacting to hurt. Never allow anyone to make you feel like you own an apology in that kind of situation. You don’t. In summary, don’t apologize from a place of guilt. That will help you avoid both of these situations.