The Church Is Not A Walmart

March 18, 2012

David Sorn

The mindset of a disciple of Christ doesn't have much in common with the mindset of a consumer.

The Church Is Not A Walmart

March 18, 2012

David Sorn

The mindset of a disciple of Christ doesn't have much in common with the mindset of a consumer.


Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

How many of you have been to a SUPER Wal-Mart before?

They have the full grocery store.

They have everything! You can do anything there.

Think about it:

You walk around. Buy some clothes. Check out some Fabric. Look at the flat screen TV’s.

Then you can decide while you’re shopping for groceries, that you’re gonna get your oil changed!

And by some shrubbery!

Then, you’re thinking, “Wow, I’ve been at WalMart for a while now, how about a lunch break in Wal-Mart!. Subway OK? McDonald’s?

You know what, this is a memorable day, take some photos, and while you eat, they’ll develop them at the Photo Shop.

And later, you’re gonna have the whole family come down to WalMart for family portraits!

While you’re waiting for the family to show up, you get your hair-cut (inside of Wal-Mart!), pay for your oil change, pick up your photos, stop by and pick up some prescriptions at the Pharmacy, check out Wal-Mart’s new cell phone plan, take family portraits, and on the way out, get Wal-Mart gas.

You might as well just move in there.

Now, a general concept of retail is that the customer has the power.

You, as the retailer, want to empower them to have CHOICES where THEY make the decision.

They call the shots! They get whatever they want!

And, in a sense, we live in this Wal-Mart, American Idol world.

Who’s gonna be the next American Idol? U Decide!

What’s the next single we release on the radio. U Decide!

There’s been a couple of major companies in the last year, who’ve said, “U pick our next spokesperson.”

You pick, you vote, you decide, you’re in charge, you’re the man, you’re the WO-Man, you’re the best. You! You! You!

And of course they say that. They have to. They’re marketing companies.

They want you to feel like you, the consumer should always get what you want!


So here’s the problem…

That’s the world we live in. Constantly. It’s the stores we go in, the companies we work for, the commercials we’re bombarded with, the billboards that distract us.

We live in a world where: We vote, we decide, we have endless options, and we get what we want.

And what happens is: We then, kind of naturally, treat the Church (when I say Church, I mean Churches everywhere) like Wal-Mart

And this is a problem

It might not seem like a problem at first cuz that’s how we normally live

But the attitudes of a disciple of Christ and a consumer at Wal-Mart have little in common

We’re gonna compare some aspects of what a Disciple of Christ looks like compared to what often goes on in Churches today

But, let’s first pause for a moment and soar up to 10,000 feet.

Why even do a series like this? Why talk about: 3 Things the Church is Not?

Why not just another series on trusting God, or faith, or forgiveness or you know, the usual stuff?

Well, because “WE” are a church together.

And understanding HOW we do WHAT we do frames EVERYTHING we do.

If we never pause to talk about this kind of stuff, then inevitably we’re gonna drift.

Towards either irrelevance, consumerism, or whatever.

So, we want to stay on course for what God has called US to.

And understanding HOW we function is super important.


So…back to Wal-Mart.

When you’re in Wal-Mart. You’re King. You’re Queen. You’re in charge. You get what you want. And you can get almost anything.

For example:

U ask to have gross apples removed…they do it

U want to find a certain toy…they’ll take U

U want to leave something in wrong place…OK!

I was putting a product back at CUB once and they literally told me, “No, no, no, just drop it here on the shelf, our shelvers will put it back for you. That’s their job. Less stress for you.” Ok. J

It’s like the world revolves around our preferences.

And what happens, is people, not necessarily intentionally, but they do…they carry this sort of Wal-Mart thinking over into church, and feel that the church should revolve around their preferences.

It doesn’t. It revolves around Christ.

And if it revolves around Christ, what is our relation to Christ?

(Luke 9:23-24) – NIV

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

The follower of Christ is to “deny themselves” and follow.

Meaning: We have to check a lot of our selfish desires at the door.

But we all have desires for what churches should do and how they should help us

I think the church oughta start a group for this…

Knitting…new moms…theology group, etc.

I think the church oughta help me be a better parent. Have a parenting program.

I think the church would be better if they played more of my style of music

And part of the interesting thing that’s happening across the country is that while consumerism runs rampant in our culture…some churches are rolling right w/ it.

There’s a church in California where you come in, and the church has tons of different rooms.

And each room has a different type of worship

Rap, Country, Metal, Acoustic, Hymns..

Pick the style you like, and they’ll video in the sermon

But the Church…is NOT Wal-Mart.

Yes, you want to be somewhat relevant to the culture (any good missionary is)…but one of the negative ramifications of completely bending to consumerism is that we’re wrongly communicating to people what church is about.

Church is NOT about finding new ways to make us happy or comfortable.

No. Church is about being about of a community and serving Christ…and each other…and the lost.

Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t have asked him to start up a club for “Fishers from Capernaum”

NO. Cuz they knew it was about serving Him. Not serving us.

And serving is hard. Serving takes sacrifice.

Jesus says to Deny yourself. That’s hard.

He says pick up your cross DAILY.

Which means being a part of God’s Kingdom doesn’t have much in common w/ being in Wal-Mart

In Wal-Mart, you’re the King

In God’s Kingdom, He’s the King.

And you’re the servant.

(Luke 17:10) – NIV

10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Which means when you come together with fellow believers, we can’t act like the King. We’re not! We’re servants.

We’ve got to serve God and each other.


Another thing you could say about Wal-Mart is they are quantity over quality

You can find just about anything at Wal-Mart. They’ve got everything. That’s well established.

Is it going to be high quality? Eh…not necessarily.

You know, Walmart is kind of like McDonald’s.

Almost EVERYONE goes there at one time or another, but no one brags about it.

When people go to nice restaurants, they put it on facebook (at Fogo….) Don’t do that for McDonald’s

Some of you need to pick something up at Wal-Mart, and you wear a hat and sunglasses cuz you don’t want to be seen there.

I mean sure, they have great rollback prices, and they have everything, but there’s not a lot of depth there.

There’s no substance. No fine taste. No quality. No depth.

And my fear is that the church in America is drifting in this direction.

We’re offering EVERYTHING

But we’re transforming NOTHING.

We are becoming a mile wide, but an inch deep.

Well, how did that even happen?

75 years ago. The church wasn’t like that. They had more services. Maybe a Sunday night service…a midweek services.

But there wasn’t a ministry for 35-36 year old single men who like to play video games…

Consumerism has been branded into our minds over the last 50 years…and when everyone brought their preference to the church….

“I think the church should feed the homeless every week”

“I think the church should do door-to-door street witnessing”

“I think the church should offer more carnivals, vbs’, and programs for the community”

And when everyone brought their preference.

The church…in fear of saying no…said ok.

And in doing everything, they started doing nothing

And the church in America lost focus.

They lost mission.

They maybe never THOUGHT this, but they started ACTING like this…

That the church’s purpose was to make people happy.

But that’s not our purpose. Our purpose is to do things like create community…help people encounter God…and to reach the Lost.

And the reality is…we’re finding we can’t do these things well when we’re not focused on them.

We can’t do them well when we’re spread out all over the place.

We can’t do them well when we’re not united.

We can’t do them well when we’re not laser focused on what we do.

That’s why we do a series like this.

See, the church is not Wal-Mart.

Our job is not to provide as many services as we can.

Our mission is to reach this world for Christ and create disciples.

I do think avoiding the “Wal-Mart culture” is something we’ve done fairly well as a church, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been something we haven’t had to fight for

And it doesn’t mean that we won’t have to continue to fight for it.

During the first year of the church, I used to say, as a joke, that 40% of my job description is saying NO.

Because our default mode is Wal-Mart mode, so we always have to fight for this strategic focus.

In fact, I tell our church planters that them holding up the vision, protecting the vision, guarding their vision, is one of the most difficult things they will do

Because everybody wants their own preference to be met. And if they cater to 70 different preferences, their church will be schizophrenic

By the way, one of the things I promised we would do today is reveal the names of our church planters.

Our first church planter is Bryan McInnis

(photo of Bryan)

Bryan spoke here last May, and he will be planting in Plymouth this Fall.

Our other church planter is Nick Whittenhall

(photo of Nick)

nick, actually was here in January, and he will be planting in Oakdale this fall.

We will be talking to you a lot more about them and how you can get involved in the weeks and months to come, and they will start hanging around here some, starting in April and May as well.

But back to Wal-Mart…Really, the Church is more like a Specialty Shop than Wal-mart.

We’ve got a particular mission.

The great commission. That’s Mt 28. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.

But we’re a specialty shop. Not a wal-mart. We’ve got a particular focus

For the sake of the argument, let’s pretend the church is like a shoe store

Some shoe stores sell a variety of shoes (but JUST shoes).

Some just sell shoes to the rich.

Some just sell shoes to athletes.

Some sell flip flops on the beach.

But their mission is the same: Sell shoes.

But how they go about it is different.

And that’s why we all go to different churches, and not the same one.

Different method. Same mission (sell shoes…create disciples)

Because the church CAN’T be wal-mart.

And in the Bible, it never looks like wal-mart

We’ve been studying the Book of Acts on and off for a year and a half, and when you read about the churches all over the world in the book of acts, it doesn’t look a thing like wal-mart.

They’re not programmed out. They don’t have a ministry for blacksmiths, a ministry for shoemakers…

No. They just have great community, good teaching, and we see them praying a lot together.

Which is why we are so intent on being focused on our house groups.

Because we KNOW…when ppl get connected to a house group …they grow in their faith.

And we don’t know that with a lot of other things

If you haven’t tried out a house group yet, let me encourage you to try one out this week.

Even if you’ve been here a while…you can still take this step. It’s not too late.

New people sign-up almost every single week.


Ok, so we tend to bring our “wal-mart-like” preferences into the church, and also our tendency to prefer a quantity of options of quality and depth…

But there’s one more wal-mart like tendency I want to talk about

What happens when you don’t like something about Wal-Mart…or Wal-Mart doesn’t have something YOU want?

What do you do? You go to Target!

And what’s happened is we are doing the same thing w/ churches

When there’s something we don’t like…we just move on

Now, important preface, I’m not just saying this as a Pastor who wants ppl to stay at my Church (although, obviously I do), I’m saying this as a principle.

On a sidenote, we’ve actually been fairly blessed to have relatively few people ever leave this church in 2.5 years.

But I’m saying it because we need each other. We need community. Not getting our preferences met somewhere else.

Let me be brutally honest. There are relatively few good reasons to leave a church

Heretical Teaching is one.

Leadership is out of control (moral failure, utter incompetency, etc.)

But there aren’t a lot of other reasons.

The gap between a preference and a Biblically-based-conviction is pretty serious.

But if we’re treating churches like Wal-Mart and switching to a new one cuz we don’t like the worship, or a message, or a couple of other little things…we’re doing exactly what our society is best at doing: Showing little to no COMMITMENT in anything.

But back when commitment was a word the general public understood, along with loyalty, you would keep buying shoes from the same shoe shop owner…even if you knew you could get them $1.00 cheaper at the store down the street.

They treated you right, and always went the extra mile to find your size 15 shoes, so you might as well stay loyal right?

But I’m not even sure we know what commitment is anymore!

I’ve been a pastor for 8 years now, and I’ve seen it far too many times that I care to admit.

I watch as people commit to things, but then another shiny object comes along, and they’re like, “SQUIRREL!!” and they chase after it.

Forgetting the commitment they made, and leaving the people they were serving behind for a preference they desired.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, but I’m thankful my parents BEAT the concept of COMMITMENT into me. Not literally J

“Mom, I want to quit the saxophone.” - Not gonna happen.

“Dad, I don’t want to this anymore. It’s too hard.” – You told her you’d help with it, so finish it.

They didn’t give me the option to quit for something shinier

Or to leave for something better.

One of my most vivid childhood memories was when I was playing catch w/ a football at a neighbor kids house

Some of my other neighbor friends came over to his house (and asked me if I wanted to leave his house and come play baseball with them)

At the time, I was like, “OK. And I told my first friend, “See you later. And I left him by himself (prob crying) while I went off to play baseball w/ my other friends”

Later, at supper, I was recounting my day to my parents, and just nonchalantly told them what happened.

I still remember WHERE I was sitting at the dinner table when the scolding about commitment began.

But that’s old school culture.

That’s not a wal-mart culture.

Nowadays, if we don’t like it…we just back out of it.

You can see it everywhere: In our marriages, in our friendships, in our churches, in our shopping habits, in how we educate, it’s everywhere.

Let’s look at our first passage in Luke again. Cuz this is where commitment stems out of

(Luke 9:23-24) - NIV

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

What’s taking up your cross even mean?

It means: Being willing to give your life

But We’re not willing to give our lives for our churches and even the ppl sitting next to us anymore because when we think of Church, we think it’s about US and how we “FEEL.”

Or what we “like about it”

Not about a group of people.

Church in America has unfortunately become something you WATCH…not a group you’re a part of

More about that next week…

But you’re not gonna give up your life for a style of worship

But you will give up your life if Church is about a group of people coming together to love each, love Christ, and change the world!

Because who does the Church revolve around??? JESUS!

Not you. Not the pastor. Not the worship leader. It’s Jesus.

So the next time some crazy pastor makes you mad, or someone at your House Group makes U mad…

The answer can’t be just to run away to something else.

We have to acknowledge that JC died for a bunch of messed up people…which means, that most of us are idiots.

Which means, sometimes you’re gonna make each other mad.

But in the end, it’s not about us. It’s about Jesus.

And we have to model His commitment.

Cuz let’s be honest, we’ve done some pretty stupid things right in front of his face, yet he stays committed to us. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. He never gives up on us.

Even when we disappoint him. We do the wrong thing.

He stays with us.

So, let’s be a church that models ourselves after the commitment of Christ.

Let’s continue to be counter-cultural. Let’s throw off the Wal-Mart trend.

Let’s cast down our crowns, and let Jesus be King!

Let’s seek depth over just programs

And let’s commit to each other.

To stick with each other…

Because God is calling this church to something great.

He’s put a call on us to reach this community for Christ.

And he’s doing amazing things at an exponential rate.

And sometimes…that’s gonna get messy.

But that’s okay. Let’s stay committed, let’s stay focused, and let’s change this world.

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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