“Consumerism’s Affect on Christianity?” What in the world does that even mean? I know that’s what some of you are thinking. Merriam-Webster defines consumerism as, “the promotion of the consumer’s interests.” In other words, it is putting out a product that creates a desire within the consumer which in turn leads them to purchase or be drawn to specific merchandise. We see it all the time with commercials or bill boards. Companies are trying to get us to spend our money on their product. They want us to think that this will make our lives better. “It is all about you! Have it your way. You deserve the best. You work hard for your money; do something special for you.”
Consumerism has made its way into every aspect of life. If you’re not happy in your marriage, don’t worry about your commitment—just get out and find someone better. If you don’t think you are ready for a baby or that you’re not going to be a very good parent, just have an abortion. We live in a world where it is all about “Me!” Whatever is best for me is what I should pursue. I deserve to have my best life now, and anything that gets in my way needs to be removed.
Sadly, consumerism has made its way into the church. The church doesn’t have the ministry we like, so instead of helping start the ministry we go to another church where it already exists. We don’t like the type of music the church sings, so we go find a style we prefer–traditional, contemporary, blended, or even country and western!
Consumerism’s effect on the church has been devastating. Church, or better yet Christianity, is no longer about being crucified with Christ, sacrificing, or putting others ahead of yourself. It has become, “If you don’t entertain me and meet my needs then I will find another church.” On any given Sunday there are thousands of people changing churches like stations on the radio because their needs or desires were not being met.
For many, church has become just like going to the movies in that we expect to be entertained. Where did we ever get the idea church is about our entertainment? When a group of Christians gather together it is to be in worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When we gather, we have an audience of one—JESUS! It not about making sure the music, the decorations, the pastor, the sermon, the version of the Bible, or anything else is entertaining or making us feel better about ourselves. It is all about worship. The Bible study and sermon should equip you to emulate Christ, do the work of ministry, and reveal sin. Church is not for your entertainment!
In their book “Renovation of the Church” Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken talk about taking a church from being all about entertainment to focusing on making disciples. Here are a couple of quotes from the book:
- “Every aspect of the time we spend together in the worshiping Christian community influences the kind of people we are becoming.” In other words, our worship services will form us into a certain kind of person. If our worship services are centered on the story of God, we will be assisted in becoming men and women whose lives are more deeply rooted in God. If our worship services are centered around our personal tastes, needs and desires, they will become merely another place that props up our inherent self-absorption.” (Kindle location 1673-75).
- “The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of a sacrificial, “deny yourself” congregation. A consumer church is an antichrist church” (Kindle location 755).
- “When we place our sincerity and wholeheartedness at the center of our worship, the content of our worship will drift toward how well we are doing with our wholehearted worship. The danger is that worship will gradually become a performance. Rather than being centered on the story of God, worship is centered on the intensity of our sincerity and devotion” (Kindle location 1719).
- “Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance. Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them. Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative” (Kindle location 1829).
Clearly this book is not a call to entertainment, but developing a heart that longs to worship God in every aspect of our life. Worship services should be about worshipping God, delivering His message no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular, and to equip the saints to be grounded in truth and do the work of ministry.
I would challenge you to read this book and examine your motives for attending church.
Consumerists we are indeed… So what has brought us to such a place?
I suggest two reasons: habit and felt need. We have habituated ourselves to be consumers in the church because that’s the way we live out more or less everything else. We watch TV, buy groceries, select on restaurant menus, surf the web, and so on all searching for things that will satisfy us. How can we not bring this same attitude to the church?
But we wouldn’t have come to this position of habituating ourselves in other areas of our life in the first place were it not for the fact that we feel something missing. Perhaps we aren’t aware of that feeling consciously or all the time, but I believe it is there. Some of it is exacerbated by marketing manipulation, but even that is playing on something that’s already there, not creating something new.
How can we change our consumerist mentality without facing the void we feel inside instead of just throwing more TV, food, internet, or even the “right” church stuff at it? Our hearts are longing…