Christian Consumerism

“If the role of religion is to offer a sense of identity, purpose, meaning and community, then it can be said that consumerism fulfills all these criteria.” – Alan Hirsch

So what sets us apart as Christians? Do we offer anything more than identity, purpose, meaning and community? Hopefully – yes! These are the buzzwords we use now, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. These are all excellent things! But in whom do we find our identity? What is our purpose? What greater meaning gives us meaning? And why have community – simply for the sake of gathering?

This quote should give us a lot to ponder. Our “religion”, which is hopefully much more than religion, is based upon the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. Salvation in him alone brings us our true identity, a worthwhile purpose, a valid meaning, and a fulfilling community.



But does it stop there? Before you become too settled in feeling this discomfort has been resolved, let me twist the knife yet again. How many Christians are still consumers?

Sure, we’re saved, sanctified, redeemed, set apart… but to what purpose? To sit and wait until Christ’s return? (see this previous post for more on that!)

I am talking about the churchgoer as a holy consumer. For instance, consider these typical comments:
“I don’t like this kind of music”  …  “This nursery should have better facilities”  …  “Why is the coffee pot in the lobby always empty?”

These are not bad observations in themselves, but what is the motivation? If it is a selfish one, then the statement (griping) is where it ends. If it is a selfless one, it will inspire us to get involved in the worship ministry, give money for nursery upgrades, or go to the kitchen to make more coffee.

Ed Stetzer is one of the forerunners in this line of thinking. He frames it in terms of getting people beyond thinking as a consumer and to think in terms of being missional. He would say that we have come to think of “missions” as something done by “them”, somewhere “over there”. In reality, missional thinking will bring us to realize that people come to us all the time (as opposed to us going to them). Are we serving them? Thinking missionally will change our attitudes and actions from consumerism to servanthood.

After all… what is the church anyway?



Busy-ness

Here is a great quote from John Piper:

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
And when I say quote, what I mean is tweet. Kind of ironic, eh? But a swift kick in the butt at the same time. Maybe Twitter or Facebook don’t consume that much of your time.  But everyone has something that sucks up their time.


“We’re too busy” is something I hear all the time lately.  I believe it less and less.

I think “busy” is a state of mind. This perspective has come slowly as I age. This is ironic in a way, because I have far more to do as I get older. Marriage means you have to do your stuff, plus her stuff, plus together stuff. Kids are very demanding of your time – and it gets worse before it gets better! You think feedings and nap times cramp your style? Wait until you have to take them to practices, school events, social activities, etc.! I really like to read – where do you slate that in?

We are involved in more activities at church, both participating and leading, than ever before. I’m now blogging and writing a lot lately. We have people over quite often. I’m self-employed, and that is feast or famine – but the demands of the work schedule can overrule many other best intentions.

But do I feel busy?  Sure, I have lots to do.  And I don’t have a lot of free (unallocated) time.  But I don’t see that as busy.  I see that as the result of my choices.  I make time for all the things above.  I make time for my wife and kids.  I make time to read and to study.  I make time for anything that is important to me.  That doesn’t mean I’m busy.  That means I’m engaged in life.

No one is busier than another person.  Everyone has the same number of minutes in a week.  It’s how we choose to spend them.  Are you choosing your minute-fillers, or do you let others impose them on you?  I think that might be what some people call “busy”.  Maybe they really mean that they feel powerless.  But you’re not! You have the same number of minutes as everyone else.  They are votes that you can cast in the grand scheme of life.  You vote with your time. Where you put your time shows what you value.  It’s that simple.

If you value community, or service, or family, or recreation, or prayer, or solitude, or whatever – you will find time for it.  What is your purpose?  Do you have one besides entertaining yourself?  If you think you do, look at your schedule.  That will tell you whether you are being honest when you say that you’re “busy”.

JUDGED

Ouch.  Lots of lessons in here.  Even if you haven’t experienced any of the exact situations in these examples, who can’t relate to the shame and judgment they felt?  And it was dished out by churches and Christians.  That’s just great.  Want a guideline for being the church?  Just do the opposite of this video.

Accepting people doesn’t mean condoning sin.  The world accepts and condones.  If they’re coming to your church, they already know you don’t approve of their behavior!  But will you accept them as readily as the world does?

Grace doesn’t mean ignorance of sin.  It means acceptance of people in spite of sin.  But if you have no grace, you have no love.  You might as well put “Sinners need not apply” on your church sign.

This is a great retelling of the story of the “Good Samaritan” in today’s culture.
Is your church too good for sinners?  Are you too good to help the wounded?

Why did Jesus have to die?… and what liberal and some emerging theologians and Muslims have in common

A couple abbreviated quotes from J.D. Greear’s blog post:

“In recent years … the theory of the atonement … has fallen out of favor with more sophisticated theologians (read: liberal and some ’emerging’; also on popular books like The Shack).”

“To believe that Jesus died to pay a debt to God’s justice, they say, makes God sound barbaric and guilty of cosmic child abuse. Ironically, this is exactly what Muslims say.”

Greear points out yet another example of why it is important to read the bible for yourself, so we don’t fall for the popular ear-ticklers of today.

Read his entire blog post here.

The Christian Coma

Christians – at least American Christians – seem to mark two milestones in their spiritual lives: Birth & Death. We talk about being “born again”, then we look forward to “eternal life”. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love Christian jargon…)

We say things like “Oh, I remember back before I met Jesus. I was a terrible person.” And, “Just wait til glory, when we’re wearing our robes, have no more sickness, and we’re singing to Jesus forever!”

Who would want that? Seriously, who would hear us talking like this and think it sounds exciting? (Certainly not Jesus) What about this will get the world’s attention? Christianity is a retirement home, it seems.

I’m going to make a new version of the board game “Life” for Christians.  Square one is salvation.  We get to begin playing the game.  We move to the first square, we get our playing piece, and then….    we sit there.  Interminably.  Doing nothing.  Just drawing a card on each turn, and waiting for the one that says, “You’re dead.  Go directly to heaven.”  What a boring game!  Wake up!  Engage!

Don’t get me wrong.  I think heaven is great and all.  I even look forward to it in a way – although I think heaven is entirely different than how most of Christianity portrays it (big shock there, I know), but that is a different topic.

But in our spiritual journey, we go from birth, directly looking forward to death.  How twisted is this?  What if you had a family member that lived their physical life like this?  There is a diagnosis in some children called “failure to thrive”.  It means a baby is not eating, growing, playing, or engaging life like a normal baby.  It is something doctors take very seriously.  I would argue that somewhere between 90-98% of the church has the same condition.

Think of the church (universal – as in ‘body of Christ’) as a family.  Would we be content to have a family like our spiritual family?  We are born, then enter a deep coma until we die.  Whee!!  Nothing like the “abundant life”!  Where is the life?  Where is the growth?  Where is the reproduction?  What about family reunions and casual get-togethers? (read: church and other fellowship)

Christianity costs us something besides our soul.  At least it should!  What about our mind, body & spirit?  Do you ever think (mind) about your faith?  Do you ever physically pursue (body) what you say you believe?  Have you ever felt (spirit) anything?

For many that do bother to leave their beds on Sundays, Christianity is nothing more than consumerism.  “So church, what do you have for me today?”

How much of your time and money is spent on something that has significance beyond your own home?  If you aren’t involved in creating new Christians, or helping other Christians to grow – what exactly is your purpose?  Is it possible you don’t even have one?

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