Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Guest Shall Always Rule

In the US commercial world there is an old adage - "The Customer is Always Right". Now, if you have worked in retail, you know that the customer isn't always right. . . however, you are to attempt to meet and respond to their needs and or perceived needs - you are to please the customer if at all possible, even if it means degrading yourself or just giving stuff away.

We almost have this same type of attitude that has built up in the Church - "The Guest Shall Always Rule". Our thoughts and such are that we think we must do whatever we can to satisfy the visitor -- don't worry if worship is as good as it could be, worry if it is visitor friendly. Don't seem too ________ so you don't offense visitors. Don't tell people they can't commune.

What made me think this is a quote from Professor Quill - "It [the Communion Statement] was really nice. 'This is our tradition. Please don't be a jerk and ignore our tradition.'" Now, said in his wonderfully winsome way, this points to something. Churches have tradition, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with a Church doing things their way.

If I show up at a Roman Catholic Church, I don't expect them not to say a Hail Mary for fear of offending me. If I go to an Evangelical Church, I don't expect them to skip the altar call because it might offend some visitors.

The guest doesn't rule the joint -- he's a guest. He can see, watch, even ask questions - but he's still a guest. I saw a comment on another blog where a person was just incensed that he wasn't allowed to simply walk on in and commune at an LCMS Church. Why would anyone have to right to walk in any place that isn't their's and think that they have a right to anything?


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I think your "customer is always right" analogy is spot on. People see the church as WalMart or McDonald's. If they aren't happy with the fries at Mickey Dees, they can switch to Wendy's.

How angry would you be if you walked into a Wendy's and they refused to sell you fries? You would see this as some kind of civil rights violation. You would lash out at them, and adopt the sour grapes attitude that many who rail against closed communion have towards the LCMS.

This commercial model is how people view thew the church in our day and age and culture. And notice the commenter's use of worldly success as a barometer - the idea that traditional churches can't "compete" with the "amenities" of a megachurch.

As if we're selling something rather than giving away eternal life. The Church has never been very good at marketing. "Take up your cross" will never be a Coke or Nike slogan.

It is the consumer mentality that drives this open communion thing, as opposed to the submission of a sinner. It also belies a sense of decision theology: I can choose to go to the ELCA or the LCMS church - rather than the idea being that I believe what the community believes and then submit to that community as a member of the body.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Yet nearly every store you walk into has that sign posted somewhere, "We reserve the right to refuse to serve anyone."

jim the lutheran said...

I saw another blog post that had a great comparison: do we make visitors "feel welcome" or try to make them "feel at home"?

There is a difference. It is NOT their home. You wouldn't expect a visitor to your home to come in, go through your closets, check the medicine cabinet, etc. You'd make him feel welcome, but not feel "at home".

I think this applies to church also.