Shopping Mall

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.