“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?