Why You Shouldn’t “Have It Your Way” at Church


I was a server for two and a half years. The entire restaurant industry is designed to offer quality customer service. The layout of the parking lot, the décor of the dining room, the quality of the food, the cleanliness of the bathrooms, the friendliness of the staff; everything is done with the hope that customers will return because they had a good experience.

I was also a pastor for six and a half years. Do you know what I noticed? Churches are motivated by the desire to offer quality customer service too.

Many churches feature Welcome Centers where first-time guests can get information and receive a gift for visiting. Visitors are given front-row parking, as well as a special greeting from the pastor.

Beyond this, pastors try to view their church through the eyes of first-time guests. They design the entire worship service to ensure visitors have a good experience. They make decisions about the building and their approach to ministry by asking, “What will visitors think?”

What We Should Be Asking

This question leads churches down many sideways paths. Instead of adopting biblical models for ministry, they follow worldly models for customer service. We ought to pray and strive for people to experience God’s saving power. Instead, we devote our efforts to making them comfortable.

But is this what church is about? In our efforts at customer service, have we missed the point of ministry? Most churches are so caught up asking, “What do visitors think?” that they forget to ask, “What does Jesus think?”

Is Jesus impressed with front-row parking? Is He wowed by fair-trade coffee or gluten-free communion bread? Is He pleased with professional lighting and sound systems? Does He get excited about church apps?

Most importantly, does Jesus value customer service? Is He happy with the amount of time, money, and energy we spend trying to impress the world while we neglect the things of God?

Don’t We Need Customer Service?

You might say, “Okay, maybe this isn’t what Jesus had in mind when He told us to ‘make disciples.’ But this is twenty-first century America. Don’t we need good customer service to reach people?”

No. You don’t.

First of all, people who visit your church will have a better experience as soon as they leave. They receive better customer service at their favorite restaurant, or grocery store, or coffee shop. We simply can’t compete with professional customer service.

But you know what? That’s okay. The church isn’t supposed to offer customer service. It’s supposed to offer the life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Second, look at the church from a global perspective. Most American churches are dead or dying (despite trying their hardest at customer service). But the church in other countries is alive and flourishing – despite facing constant hostility and persecution!

The persecuted church in no way prioritizes customer service. Indeed, it can’t. But it grows because it prioritizes what truly matters – Jesus, His gospel, and His kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong. Customer service does win people. But it doesn’t reach the lost. Instead, it mostly attracts people that are already saved who are looking for the best church-going experience. Even if it does win lost people, it will only win them to a customer service Jesus.

And what good is He?

Is your church more concerned with pleasing visitors than pleasing Jesus? If so, consider sharing this post with your pastor or fellow members.

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2 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t “Have It Your Way” at Church

  1. Mr. Donaldson,

    I appreciate the article because it is a good reminder. There’s no doubt, if it’s all about customer service and not much about Jesus, our focus is misguided. I like to think we can we can offer both; a good experience for people who attend Church and a meaningful focus on Jesus. The maturity level of everyone is different and some may be walking into a church service for the first time in 5 years. What kind of experience will they have? I want their experience to be positive. If that includes some friendly customer service, I’m okay with that. I’d rather people walk out of a church service with a positive experience than to walk out thinking the bathrooms smelled, the carpet was dirty, the service was disjointed, the sound was horrible and the message was boring. I want to reach that person. I don’t see anything wrong with using 21st century methods to reach 21st century people with the message of Jesus.
    If Jesus lived in our time I’m sure he would be using the web, facebook, twitter, sound systems, projection systems, lighting, welcome centers and so forth to reach people. A balance between customer service and a focus on Jesus is the key. Have a great day!

    Again, good article and thanks for the challenge.

    Serving Him Together,
    Kendall Bopp

    • I agree that people should have a good experience at church. There’s no reason to be unfriendly or to neglect our facilities. But there’s a fine line between customer service and people-pleasing. After all, do we go to church to make people feel good? Or to worship Jesus?

      It’s possible in theory to maintain a balance between customer service and a focus on Jesus. But I think the American church has proven it isn’t possible in practice. The problem is that we put our hope and trust in superficial things rather than spiritual things. We rely on our winsomeness rather than the power of the gospel to change lives. And that is idolatrous.

      As for using 21st-century methods, we shouldn’t assume we are doing ministry the same way Jesus would. After all, the religious leaders of His day (and the Jewish nation as a whole) rejected Him because He ignored conventional methods of ministry! It would be helpful to read His letters to the churches in Revelation 2 – 3 from time to time. He probably isn’t as happy with us as we think He is…

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