logoIn case anyone’s missed it, we’re getting closer and closer to Christmas. If you’ve ever been to IKEA since the end of September(!), its been pretty obvious. You’ve might only have wanted to buy a new rug for the hallway or a bookshelf for the living room, but no – you should buy ornaments for the Christmas tree, wrapping paper for the presents, and an advent star to hang in the window as well. Three months in advance. If it was up to me, that sort of things should be forbidden by law until at least mid-November. Not to mention all the adverts that encourage us to get the right Christmas spirit. And how do we get that, one may wonder? By buying stuff. We’re being encouraged – all year round for that matter – to be consumers, to buy stuff. We buy, therefore we are.

 

To be consumers is a fundamental part of our society – not only is it important to keep the economy going (which in one sense is good, because it creates jobs etc) – it has a lot to do with shaping our identities, creating a sense of self worth and stuff like that. If I buy a pair of Nike sneakers, I’m not just buying a pair of sneakers, it states who I am (or who I want to be). I buy a lifestyle and an image. The same applies to all kinds of clothes, the new kitchen or bathroom I might buy, what kind of car I drive etc. Well, you get the point.

 

The fact that consumerism has sneaked into our churches is not a new thought, its been, for example, an important topic of discussion within the Emerging Church conversation for a long time (and still is on the agenda). And there’s plenty of books out there covering the topic.

 

We, more often than we perhaps think, approach church with a consumer mindset (whether we’re aware of it or not) – the church programs should appeal to my tastes and needs and the Sunday service is assessed as if I’d been to the cinema or a show (did I like the sermon, how about the worship, the back ground slides? etc). And what’s wrong with that, you may wonder, as you give some of your hard earned cash to the church every month, should you not expect something in return?! And if you don’t like what you get, you can always go to a different church.

 

I know this may sound over generalizing and cynical, but isn’t there at least some truth to all this? I believe that consumerism is a major problem in our Western churches, for starters it tends to pacify us (rather than actively following Jesus and doing the stuff he did). And worse, we risk approaching God as a product that we can consume whenever we feel like it or need it. Consumerism (as with individualism and similar isms) undermines the mission of God, and is definitely not the stuff to build a world changing, discipleship making, church planting movement on!

 

Well, for me, its increasingly become one of my main concerns and questions that I grapple with (particularly as we embarked on our latest church planting adventure). Is the church/ Christian community that we are hoping to see emerge out of all this one that feeds on the consumerism in our lives and in society, or will it become a counter-cultural force that can set us and others free to participate in the mission of God?

 

Part 1

Part 2

 

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