The McDonaldization of the Church

Consumer Culture and the Church's Future

I just ILL’d this book, and it is proving to be quite provocative.  John Drane argues that the church has been “McDonaldized” (he draws on George Ritzer’s earlier book, The McDonaldization of Society). 

Here’s a blurb (yes, I realize that the blog world isn’t helping us get out of McDonaldization, but this blog is calling you to read books!):

“For other evidences of the quick-fix pre-packaged ‘church’ we need go no further than the average Christian bookstore, where most of the stock is likely to be of this kind.  There are ‘how-to’ books on every imaginable topic, including titles claiming to be able to teach us the ‘ten steps to spiritual maturity,’ or how to be a successful parent in sixty minutes, while anyone looking for curriculum materials for Christian education is faced with a bewildering choice, all of them claiming to offer biblical truth and changed lifestyles in even more easily accessible bite-sized chunks than their competitors. 

Many churches are expending inordinate amounts of energy to ensure that their worship (by which they invariably mean singing or what some call ‘music ministry’) is carefully programmed and regulated.  Alongside this there is a corresponding focus on appointing people to ever more narrowly defined ministry positions, building up extensive programs, and ensuring that we have the right size of team to meet projected needs….. 

In such a context, pre-packaged church can easily seem to be an attractive option: somebody else does the thinking for you, predigests it, and serves it up in an efficient manner.  It is the spiritual equivalent of fast food, and unlike the home-prepared meal it requires no preparation, no cleaning up afterwards, and no involvement in cooking it.  But – to continue the analogy – fast food comes in only very limited selections, and the novelty of those wears off (and who wants to eat burgers for every meal?) then the majority of people look elsewhere, even if they do not seek out establishments that are paid-up members of the growing international ‘Slow Food’ movement.  Churches where everything is pre-packaged can often thrive for awhile, but eventually they too lose their appeal.”

I’m still in the middle of this book, so stay tuned for more!

Quotes taken from John Drane The McDonaldization of the Church (Macon: Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2001), 42-3.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

2 thoughts on “The McDonaldization of the Church”

  1. Absolutely thrilled to have met the author a few months ago in Brighton (UK) uni. This book is a must for every church leader as it takes a long hard look at ‘how we do church’ in the West. I have not quite finished it, but have just reached to point where Prof. Drane is touched by the influence of dance in worship, during a trip to Australia. The other thing which made a deep impression upon me, was the way we are seated in churches, all separated and in rows with the main ‘performer’ at the front. Let’s hope things will change & draw in all those ‘seekers’ ‘traditionalists’ ‘hedonists’ & ‘secularists’ before it is too late!

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