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The customer is always right.
That’s the saying. Even though it’s not true. Customers are usually wrong. But we say that the customer is right and set out to satisfy them so we’ll keep their business. It’s really a mantra of capitalism. Give the customer what they want so they’ll keep giving us their money. Whatever it takes.
But the smartest businesses don’t give customers what they want.
And neither should churches…especially this weekend.
The Customer is Always Right
There are plenty of businesses that do all right with “the customer is always right” mentality. The customers demand something, and the business fills that demand. Customers want a giant burger with four patties, three strips of bacon and five pieces of cheese? Give it to them. The customer is always right.
But those businesses are always chasing the customer, always catching up, always one step behind. These businesses are the middle-men. Sure, they make a living, but they aren’t leading.
Smart Businesses Know the Customer Is Wrong
Then there are businesses that know the customer is not right.
The customer does not know what they need or want.
Those are the businesses who are in the business of telling the customers what their needs are, of giving customers things they didn’t know they needed, and now can’t live without. These are business that disrupt the marketplace. They are in the business of surprising, not meeting expectations. Businesses like Apple, who are too smart to listen to the customer.
The Real Meaning of “Relevant”
Churches in America are obsessed with being “relevant.”
I think that’s church-talk for “the customer is always right.”
That’s why churches are always chasing the customer. That’s why churches this weekend will give customers what they think they want, with massive, pastel colored Easter Egg parties and equally pastel colored self-help sermons. The customers demand something, and churches will try to fill the demand of the ever-fickle American consumer. Next week, churches will find out…again…just how fickle the American consumer really is.
Not Called to Be Relevant
Very few churches will lead the American spiritual consumer this weekend. Very few will ignore what the customers think they want, and give them something they didn’t know they needed.
Tell me, what is “relevant” to our culture? Giant hamburgers. Self-help books. Anti-depressants. 401Ks. Big trucks. Guns. Cable subscriptions.
There is nothing about the crucified corpse of a Jewish carpenter laying in a tomb that is in any way “relevant” to our 21st century American culture. There is nothing “relevant” to our self-indulgent culture about taking up a cross and embracing self-denial for the sake of that Jewish carpenter. But we are not called to give the customer what they want. We are not called to be “relevant.” We are called to be counter-cultural. We are called to offer people the Christ they don’t know they need.
We are called to be witnesses.
Happy Easter, everyone.