According to Edwin C. van Driel (“Church and Covenant: Theological Resources for Divided Denominations” in Ecumenical Ecclesiology, ed. Gesa Elsbeth Theissen; T & T Clark, 2009), we church leaders started it. The commoditization of Church began when we leaders began to count our members, and measure effectiveness by how many showed up. That’s when the reciprocal church shopping started.
Van Driel’s rather interesting theory is that if we treat the people of God as a kind of possession over which denominations compete, we should hardly be surprised when they treat the church itself as a department store – looking for the best bargain, and freely going from store to store to find it.
If, on the other hand, we set aside any sense of competition and instead act out of the belief that we do indeed belong to the One Church of Christ, then we will naturally function collectively as parts of a whole. What an idea! Can you imagine if we leaders acknowledge publicly the value of one another’s perspectives as faithful Christians, thus giving tacit permission to our people to discover a fuller appreciation for our shared faith? We might actually begin to plan together, to share resources, to better explain who we are rather than who we are not.
Can you imagine?