I was in my Theology of Paul class on Thursday morning when one line of the professor's really caught my attention. "What are we selling?" He was particularly asking us to think about what our personal understandings of salvation are in light of Paul's epistles and the interpretation that James Dunn gives of the theology therein. I'm no closer to understanding my personal concept of salvation (other than the fact that the word makes me queasy) but it made me think about the church in a way that I've never wanted to see before - as a business. Let's face it - we live in a capitalist society where everyone is selling and buying all the time. We even have dating services and website where, in a sense, we sell ourselves. Churches are competing for people in the pews - the ones who have the largest congregations and the most money to play with are seen as the "winners" converting souls and doing God's work with blessing. What are we really selling? Do we have to look at it that way? Isn't there something beyond the consumer model? What would Jesus have to say about this mentality (and the cleansing of the temple scene comes to mind)?
Regardless of how idealistic I want to try to be, the fact remains that many people don't think of church as something they want to do, but either something they need to do or are obligated to do. That doesn't seem right to me - although need and obligation are a part of it, I go to be part of a community - to worship with people who think like me and value the same things I value (for the most part). In this society, we can sell anything anywhere, including over our computers where we never really have to see or interact with anyone. Is that the kin_dom of God? Is that the ideal life for anyone? We can show our kids Disney movies galore that teach us it's not about the things in life but the people, but everything around us tells us otherwise. Advertising thrives on the message that happiness can be bought, and how do churches thrive? Is the church too something that can be bought?