Church on Sale

Posted on November 22, 2013

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Most blog posts I read are interesting for a day or two, then slip into my sub-conscious or out of my head altogether. But this recent post from The Minimalists is sticking with me. In it the author argues that we shouldn’t buy things on sale. Actually, he is not opposed to buying things on sale, what he is opposed to is buying things because they are on sale. You should read the entire piece, but the thrust of the argument is summarized here:

“The reason I avoid Sale Price, though, has less to do with quality or money and more to do with my own impulses. I prefer to pay Full Price because it makes me question the purchase a great deal. When I discover something I want to buy, I must think it over and spend time budgeting for it, all the while questioning whether the new possession will add real value to my life.

Conversely, Sale Price is the compulsory price, a fool’s price. Not long ago, I played the fool. Repeatedly. I fell for all the tropes of Sale Price: Act now! Limited time only! While supplies Last! But much like Pavlov’s bell, these clever stratagems incite a false sense of scarcity that clouds our perception of reality, prodding us to act on impulse. Sure, you might save 70% off that clearance-rack dress you sort of like, but you’ll save 100% if you just leave the store without it.”

And this idea has stuck with me primarily because I love Lay’s Potato Chips. Know how some people will pour themselves a glass of wine while they make dinner? I’ll open a bag of Lay’s. I know, classy, right? But even when potato chips, like Lay’s, are not loaded down with tons of extra ingredients, potato chips in the quantity that I attack them are not good for me.

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I know this. I know that the best course of action is not have them in the house. And I’ll maintain this position for a while. In fact, when they are not in the house, I don’t even think about them.

Then I see them on sale. Two bags for $5.00. It’s always 2 for $5. And I linger next to them for a minute. I might even go pick up the yogurt or the eggs that are items that are actually on my list. But their siren song calls to me…on…sale…on…sale…on…sale…

Except that last time I was at the store, because I had the idea of not buying on sale, I didn’t buy any. I remembered that I wasn’t planning on buying any chips when I entered the store. I remembered what would happen when I got them home. So I walked on. And I felt good about my decision because it corresponds to one of my life-goals (in this case, the goal of keeping my chip-weight to a minimum) rather than impulsively throwing two bag of crunchy, salty delight.

People use the Sale Price not only as a motivation to buy, but as a badge of honor.

Listen to how people speak of their decisions to buy something. Who hasn’t complimented someone’s new shirt, shoes, car, or upgraded phone, and been told what a great deal it was. Not, “I really needed this.” Or, “The quality of this product is second-to-none.” But, “I got it on Zulilly for $13!”

Now, my wife uses these kind of discount websites to find deals on clothes or shoes for the kids and I appreciate her efforts. I’m only making the point that when “low cost” or “on sale” is your primary reason for buying something, you’re going to end up with a lot of stuff you don’t need. Then you’ll have to retroactively convince yourself you do need all this stuff. And your basement and closets and garage will fill and you’ll one day scratch your head and wonder, “Where did I get all this stuff?”

The Church on Sale?

Has this Sale Price mentality entered my view of the Church? I want to attend a church that is fun, convenient, and personally gratifying, but just like with buying things on sale, I want these things to take their proper place: as secondary criteria.

I think a good church is worth paying Full Price for. If you can re-orients me away from myself, or speak to a deep need, or challenge me to see the world with the eyes of Christ, you will not need to offer discounted services, whether it is exciting programming, or better music, or a new youth room. If you can get these things, wonderful, why not have them? But chasing after these things for their own sake is like buying something you don’t need, just because its on sale.

(I welcome your thoughts on this post as this idea feels like it needs some refinement.)

Photo: espensorvik

Photo:  timsamoff

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Posted in: Church, Theology