Sometimes, I guess, doing the “same old thing” is not enough. In California recently, I noticed that CVS Pharmacy has opened a new group of stores branded “CVS Pharmacy y Más.” In Spanish, of course, y más means “and more.” The new stores are doing well, apparently.
It occurs to me that churches are also doing the y más thing. In fact, I know very few that aren’t doing it. In the world today, consumerism has gained a nearly total dominance in our minds, and it is difficult for us even to think outside the box of this mindset. In religious and spiritual matters, areas where you would think consumerism has no relevance, churches not only think in terms of marketing but even outdo businesses at their own game. And I am not talking about denominational churches that have joined the “church growth” movement. In this post, I’m concerned with the number of “our” congregations that cater to members who would not worship there if there wasn’t a good bit of y más going on. It’s time to admit it: the gospel is no longer enough. What used to be extras have become essentials, if a church expects to grow.
The gospel has become a generic “commodity” (ordinary, uninteresting, and of low perceived value). Offering the gospel is not nearly enough anymore to make a church a place that people would want to go to. Today, it’s all about the extras . . . the y más. Acting like consumers, people typically go to church where they find the extras they want. “The gospel? Well, yes, you can get that in several churches near us. But we’re looking for a church where they also have __________ .”
Some will say they despise this kind of thinking, and they have in mind mega-churches that draw crowds with rock-band music, rock-star preaching, and rock-arena church buildings. But that doesn’t worry me as much as my brothers and sisters who will often drive right past a sound congregation that desperately needs their help in the Lord’s work in order to worship with a group that offers “more” — more youthfulness, more friendliness, more married couples with children, more enthusiastic singing, more interesting preaching. Worship . . . y más. In short, a nicer “experience.” After all, in a consumer society, it’s the “experience” that counts. Starbucks succeeds by brewing up an experience, not just coffee. The NFL succeeds by putting on an experience, not just an athletic competition. And churches succeed by providing an experience, not just the gospel. It would be comical if it weren’t so sad.
And what about us as individuals? Are we content with salvation or do we require salvation y más? How honest are we about what really attracts us? Is it the gospel itself, or is it the extras? In a day when so many interesting temporal things often accompany the Christian’s hope of heaven, how many of us would continue to do what we do (and worship where we worship) if the extras were taken away?