Recently, Rachel Held Evans published a post at the CNN Belief Blog entitled "Why Millenials are Leaving the Church" and gives as clear and complete summary of those reasons that you'll find. It's a must read for ministry leaders.
One of the reasons she identifies is consumerism in the church. That is, when the church treats itself like a product and potential members (and current members, for that matter) as consumers.
In light of declining attendance and cultural irrelevance, she says, churches think the answer is to repackage and rebrand themselves so young adults (and others) will want to come. She writes this:
Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.
But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.
This critique of consumerism doesn't get much play in conversations around the church. Why? Probably because we are so ingrained in consumer culture (work, politics, economy) that we can't even tell that we are part of the system. Like fish in water, it is our whole environment. We don't even notice it.
At the same time I read Held Evan's post, I picked up a copy of Pete Rollins' latest book, The Idolatry of God: Breaking our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction. Pete takes this consumerism head on, outlining how we sell the church, and sell God, and how it hurts the people we intend to help.