Wal-Mart Theology

–May of 2003

Wal-Mart Theology

I think it’s fair to say that the church has at times affected the prevailing political and economic philosophies of the day in a very positive way.  I also think it’s fair to say that the prevailing political and economic philosophies have at times adversely affected the church.  One such example is what I call the churches adoption of a “Wal-Mart theology”.

The late Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, changed the economic philosophy of the market place with his “Wal-Mart approach” to merchandising.  He built a multi-billion dollar business around three basic premises.  1. Give the customer what they want. 2. Give it to them cheaper than anybody else.  3. Build loyalty with feigned friendliness and surface relationships.

It is an approach that has clearly affected the church. The church now offers a menu of activities, worship styles, and preaching that has something for everyone.  Unsaved, carnal churchgoers can get their weekly fix of “spiritual life” without ever being made uncomfortable.  The talk show style preacher has ousted the thundering prophet.  His suave humor and well-honed ability to “almost say something” has made churchgoers all across America feel good about being in church.  Give them what they want is verse one of the new creed!

Pollsters are scratching their head over the fact that people are going back to church in record numbers, yet the morality of our country is still on the decline.  This is a direct result of churches that have discounted the price of what it means to be a Christian.  Instead of stressing a repentance from sin and a call to radical holiness, they offer a crown without a cross, faith without faithfulness, and a spiritual life that doesn’t have to be a separated life.  It’s no longer the narrow way but the cheapest way that is a part of today’s church.

How has the Church been affected by the third premise?  We’ve adopted the Wal-Mart greeter’s philosophy.  We smile, shake hands, and move on.  Churches are filled with people who have nothing but superficial relationships with their fellow attendees (if they know them at all). The whole concept of community and accountability that’s supposed to be a part of the church isn’t there.  The words of Jesus in Matthew 25 that, “I was a stranger and you took me in”, point out the fact that the Church must reach out in true love and friendship pulling others in to the inner circle of their own lives.  The Christian must build bridges to other human beings and offer themselves to a needy, hurting world.  You can’t do that with out being willing to get intimately involved in someone else’s life.

Isaac Watts had never heard of Wal-Mart Theology when he penned these words, “Am I a soldier of the Cross, a follower of the Lamb, and shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name?   Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?  Sure I must fight if I would reign, increase my courage, Lord.  I’ll bear the toil endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.”   No disrespect, Mr. Sam, but Isaac’s got it right!

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