The Americanization of the congregation

"The ink on my ordination papers wasn’t even dry before I was being told by experts, so-called, in the field of church that my main task was to run a church after the manner of my brother and sister Christians who run service stations, grocery stores, corporations, banks, hospitals, and financial services. Many of them wrote books and gave lectures on how to do it. I was astonished to learn in one of the best-selling books that the size of my church parking lot had far more to do with how things fared in my congregation than my choice of texts in preaching. I was being lied to and I knew it.

This is the Americanization of the congregation. It means turning each congregation into a market for religious consumers, an ecclesial business run along the lines of advertising techniques, organizational flow charts, and energized by impressive motivational rhetoric.

But this was worse. The pragmatic vocational embrace of American technology and consumerism that promised to rescue congregations from ineffective obscurity violated everything—scriptural, theological, experiential—that had formed my identity as a follower of Jesus and as a pastor. It struck me as far worse than the earlier erotic and crusader illusions of church. It was a blasphemous desecration of the way of life to which the church had ordained me—something on the order of a vocational abomination of desolation."

-Eugene Peterson
The Pastor: A Memoir pp 112-3

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