Consumerism

Consuming Worship

Consuming Worship

Last week we took a more positive turn as we considered how our identity as consumers impacts our devotional lives. We continue in that positive direction as we consider our experience as corporate and individual worshipers in today’s consumeristic environment.

Throughout this series I have tried to provide a broader comparative historic context. The inclusion of songs in worship was present from the earliest days of the church. Paul incorporates what appear to be familiar songs in his writing, John shares songs in Revelation, and of course the Psalms provided a hymn book for the early church. The earliest house church discovered in Syria dates to the early 3rd century AD and is covered with beautiful frescoes. The church from the very beginning was worshiping artistically.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Alpine Adventure Video: Gorgeous Alpine footage taken in Europe.

2.      Advice of Two Older Saints: JI Packer and John Stott's advice from near the end of faithful Christian lives.

3.      The World and Everything In It: My go-to daily news podcast from a Christian perspective. Some of my favorite segments are the Legal Docket where they report on cases before the Supreme Court and Culture Fridays with John Stonestreet.

4.      5 Ways Porn Lies to You: Every sin speaks lies. Tim Challies verbalizes the dangerous lies porn tells us.

5.      Why Does Everything Have to Be Politicized? A timely post by Trevin Wax on consumerism and how signals we send out to prove who we are. My series on consumerism will conclude with a post that makes similar connections.

Consuming Alone

Consuming Alone

In this series we’ve tried to help pull us out of our fish tank and examine the water we swim in every day: the water of consumerism. We’ve examined how the waters of consumerism have impacted our experience with the local church and found that impact has been largely negative. The next two weeks we will talk about the way it has engaged our devotional life and worship life before closing by discussing how it has impacted our lives as stewards.

When growing up it was fairly common to talk about “your personal relationship with Jesus.” Salvation, similarly, was couched in very personal terms: “Have you asked Jesus into your heart as your Lord and Savior?” Those statements aren’t wrong, but they only begin to get at what the Christianity of the New Testament. In the gospels and the letters in the New Testament those who are invited to participate in Christianity are called into a new family, are asked to welcome a new kingdom, and are called to live in a radical new community. The invitation to salvation went far beyond one’s “personal relationship with Jesus,” inviting one into a new community, new way of life that was lived out in a new family.

Consumers at Church, part II

Consumers at Church, part II

We’ve been discussing the impact of the water we swim in in 21st century America – consumerism—on our spiritual lives. Last week I took a look at how unique our situation is in the context of 2,000 years of church history. The notion that you have any decision to make on the church you attend would be a completely foreign idea to the experience of two millennia of Christians around the globe.

The point of such an observation isn’t to shame our current context or even lament the fragmentation of the church (those would be discussions for another day). Rather it helps us see the strangeness of the reality that, for most contemporary American Christians, there is a lengthy period of shopping for a church that happens when one moves or, for most, if anything happens within their church context that upsets or unsettles them. The days of being buried in the church where you were baptized and married are long gone for most.

Consumers at Church, part I

Consumers at Church, part I

We have been exploring in this series the impact of how our identity has been shaped as consumers in 21st century America. Last week we reflected on Jamie Smith’s profound book, Desiring the Kingdom, and his insights into how consumerism shapes who we are. In the next two posts, I will apply those insights into how we engage the local church. In today’s post I want to consider just how strange our current posture of selecting a church is in an historic context. That statement might not naturally draw you in, but it’s only when we are able to see how alien and strange our current reality is that we can begin to consider how to diagnose our condition and, Lord willing, be cured.

The notion of “church shopping” first becomes a possibility in 20th century America.

Consumers at the Mall

Consumers at the Mall

Jamie Smith’s profound book, Desiring the Kingdom, lays out a captivating description of the shopping mall as seen through the eyes of a Martian. In doing so, Smith gives us new eyes to see the ways in which the mall speaks cultural truths.

Smith exposes three truths that the mall tells us about ourselves as consumers and I’ve added a fourth:

1)      “I’m broken, therefore I shop.” The mall latches onto our own sense of deficit and insecurity; it creates desires and offers fulfillment for those desires, whether it is a PS4 or a new wardrobe or a salty soft pretzel coupled with a tart and sweet lemonade.

We are Consumers

We are Consumers

Like it or not, we are consumers. Just as a peasant in feudal 13th century Normandy was inextricably a farmer, so we, 21st century westerners, are inextricably consumers. That isn’t to say the 13th century farmer or the 21st century consumer is reduced to that identity, but it is undeniably a part of how the farmer or the consumer thinks, feels, believes, and acts.

That consumerism, then, profoundly shapes the way we view the world and our faith. We can’t help but view our faith with the eyes of consumerism. That might feel like an off-putting statement. I realize that consumerism is thrown around as a dirty word and our natural impulse is to distance ourselves from it.