Alan Hirsch tells the story of how his church in Melbourne became the object of the spirituality customer. They became the trendy church for people from the burbs to get their urban-hipster worship on. While this touches on the deeper, more troubling issue of consumerism and spirituality, we’ll get into that discussion later. For now, I just wanted to highlight the reality of corporate worship inflation.
“We discovered that if a community member left SMRC [the church they started], for whatever reason, they found it much harder to go back to a ‘meat and potatoes’ style of church, because they had acquired a taste for ‘spice and garlic,’ so to speak. We found that a lot of the people who left just wandered around and couldn’t reconnect anywhere.” (Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 44)
This quote reminded me of a quote from early Brian McLaren:
“We are prone to guilt-tripping ourselves and others even though guilt trips take us nowhere but backward. For example, we glorify extraordinary revival experiences so as to feel like failures during ordinary times, not realizing that if last year’s extraordinary revival experience continues for more than a few weeks, it becomes the new ordinary experience. If last week’s worship was awe inspiring, this week’s must at least equal it in emotional force; otherwise, someone is sure to tell us we are backsliding and will threaten to go down the street ‘where God is really moving.’ The result in some churches is an ever-inflating hype, which might seem exciting from the outside, but from the inside is pressured, desperate, and pathetic.” (McLaren, Church on the Other Side, 105)
This is a very insightful observation. We need to be aware and honest about the hype and the emotions that come with it when involved in corporate worship.