On Thursday we had our Mission Shaped Intro Course, and we had a debate “Is Consumerism a Friend or a Foe to the Church?”
In many ways it is obviously to say there are flaws in this culture, materialism is not something that sits comfortably with the God who had “no where to lay his head”.
Yet consumerism has at its heart people searching for something, there is a restlessness within the culture, knowing that they are not complete and happy as they are. I know my need of something that try satisfies is the ‘holy grail’ of this culture, which I think gives the Church an amazing opportunity to give people “the bread that truly satisfies” or “the living water when we never have to thirst again”…
Jesus’ conversation with the woman at Jacobs well resonates powerfully with 21st century culture wanting something more, and something real and something that satisfies.
Perhaps being part of a consumerist culture that promises so much but delivers so little has caused wide dissatisfaction, and a desire for something different and real, perhaps this is why we have seen the rise of things like the occupy movement in London, or Bernie Saunders narrowly missing out on being a Presidential candidate, and saw Jeremy Corbyn elected (and re-elected). The message of the Rich Fool -who built bigger and bigger barns only to die- begs us to ask “what does it profit a person to gain the whole world but loose your soul?”, instead I believe there is a real sense of people wanting to do something positive to make a difference, to make our lives count, the Bible talks of “building with Gold, Silver and Costly Stones not with hay, wood or straw which is burned up and does not last”, I think our culture knows that too much we do is fleeting and transitory and not permeant, lasting or significant.
Yet consumerism can be something of an enemy of the Church, I want everything done my way, “I want the things I like… give me great coffee and comfortable seats”, “I want old hymns that I remember from school” and I want a sermon not too long and not too challenging (and certainly not challenging my lifestyle too much!). You give me what I want and if I don’t like it I will go to a Church that does”.
The problem we become so used to being a consumer that we consume Church and spit out discipleship.
Church has become massively consumerist, just see how many books, music, conferences and silly tat like rulers and pencils etc get consumed by Churches, the Christian market is a multi million dollar industry. Ironic as its founder was so poor he had to do a miracle with a fish to pay his tax on one occasion.
The problem often with us and consumerism we have become some enculturated with it that we barely notice it. I remember hearing a guy attacking consumerism at a Christian festival with a brand-name hoodie on, with lights, smoke and a funky band, and I wondered whether we have a bit of a blind spot in this area. The same could be said for a Church where the Vicar is wearing expensive vestments and costly challis speaking in middle of the talk about living a life of poverty.
As I thought more of consumerist enculturation I thought this is the opposite of being incarnational.
We are called to be Christ-like where-ever we go, and to impact where-ever we go for Christ; yet I wonder if the reverse happens we become enculturated in consumerism and end up spreading this where-ever we go. I want to spread Kingdom DNA, to stand out in my culture, not to blend in, not to sell out or morph into the same as the world around us, consuming the Church.
Instead, Church of Christ arise, and know that what we have is a mirror to consumerism, “and the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace”.