Big Box Stores Have Impacted Local Ministry

I love Wal-Mart.

I know it is not vogue to admit this. It is more acceptable to denounce Wal-Mart for its hiring practices, wages, or how it hinders small business development. These points are all valid and worthy of discussion.

However, I love Wal-Mart. Why? What other place can you purchase your weekly groceries, clothing for your children, golf balls for the weekend, visit the bank, get your tires rotated, and have lunch all in one trip? I can think of few similar places. The convenience that Wal-Mart offers is the reason for its financial success and market penetration.

As much as I love Wal-Mart, and other similar big box store retailers, I struggle with what they have done to the ministry of the local church. The one-size-fits-all approach to how we shop has impacted the mission of the local church. We expect the local church and its ministries to reflect the one-size-fits-all mentality of stores like Wal-Mart. We expect the local church to have everything and to be everything.

In all honesty, we expect the church to be Wal-Mart.

What we want is for the local church to offer every program, to meet every want, and to serve every purpose. Gone are the days, for many of us, where the church is defined by the mission of “making disciples of all people.” Instead, the church is defined more as an institution vying for your attention, commitment, and, yes, money. What we really believe is that the church should serve us instead of we serving the church’s mission.

In order to compete with the world, we have led our churches and ministries down the path of wanting to be everything to everyone without being committed to our core beliefs and vision. Of course, we also try to be everything in order to grow and increase our worship and church attendance. This is a destructive practice that makes the church look more like the world than like Christ.

It is a sad truth. This is beyond recognizing the church’s commercialization. It is a recognition of our active belief that unless the church does not offer everything then it is not being the true witness of Christ.

The church is not about programs. The church is about a mission.

Our mission must always be connected to the Great Commandment’s call to go out and make disciples of all people. This mission may mean that we have everything. It many mean that we do not look like anything that the world has ever seen before. Whatever we are and whatever we seek to be, we must be connected to our identity as the witnesses of Christ in our time.

We must never lose sight of our mission and core purpose. Ministry should not look like Wal-Mart. The church must not be in the business of doing everything. It must be about the important work of sharing the message of Christ and making disciples of all people. How we do this will look different in various contexts and culture, but it is a work that we must  focus on and be committed to doing.

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