My wife and I had some friends over last night that are very committed Catholics. We had some interesting discussions about how some things practically work in each of our churches. They felt slightly guilty for “parish shopping” when they recently moved and explained that some Catholics feel strongly that you should always support your local parish. Our friends, on the contrary felt that some parishes were of such a poor quality that they should be allowed to die. We then explained how Protestants go about choosing what church to attend (church shopping) and expressed our concern with how easy it is for a consumerist attitude to rise up in people. It’s definitely something that is a big problem for some Protestants.
Later on our friend said “Don’t you hate it when a pastor recycles his sermons? You get the point where you know everything he’s going to say. It makes it refreshing to move so that you can hear something new.” We had to confess that this doesn’t really happen all that often in Protestant churches. If a pastor starts mailing it in and giving the same sermons over and over again, he loses his congregation. In this way, “church capitalism” protects people.
I am just thinking about how this conversation relates to Mormonism, where nobody has any choice about what ward they attend. The LDS church has an inactivity rate of something like 70%. I think that number would be greatly improved if people were allowed to pick and choose a little bit more (that way people could avoid toxic collections of people). Increased attendance would be a worthy goal, but it would come with a price. Like Protestants, LDS would need to fight against the “it’s-all-about-me” attitude in church. It’s such prevalent message in our society, it’s hard not to be influenced by it.