Monthly Archives: May 2009
Skye Jethani asks whether we are that different from the Crusaders in his new book, The Divine Commodity:
When Christians with a consumer consciousness try to wrap their imaginations around such a large undertaking [as the Great Commission], they will automatically think about products or corporations that have impacted the world and emulate the same methodologies. So we ask, how does Coca-Cola impact the world? How does Disney impact the world? How does Starbucks impact the world? And we forget to ask the only question that really matters: How does Jesus impact the world?
We have incorrectly made the scale of our methods conform to the scale of our mission. We have assumed that the magnitude of the ends should be proportional to the magnitude of the means. And in the process we’ve revealed how captivated our imaginations really are to consumerism. Gregory Boyd points out the error: “We are to transform the world. That’s the call. But the way you do it from a kingdom perspective is very different from the way you do it from the world’s perspective.”
We may not use the sword to advance the church’s mission anymore, but the sword is no longer the conventional instrument of power and influence. Today the church emulates the methods of corporations and business, and most of us never pause and ask whether such tactics are consistent with the ways of Christ. Like the Crusaders, we seem content to leave such judgments for future generations whose vision will be sharpened by history.
Skye Jethani, The Divine Commodity, page 169.
On page 151 of The Divine Commodity, Skye Jethani writes:
Hospitality was never about changing oneself to fit the desires and expectations of the guest, but rather about loving and honoring the guest by welcoming her into the reality of one’s life and community with open arms. But this view has been radically changed in our consumer culture. Today, the goal of hospitality has become making the best possible impression upon a guest even if that impression is a false one. We do not wish for guests to see us as we really are, but as we wish we were. The goal is to keep their attention fixed on the commodified goods and experiences that form he façades of our lives.
In my congregation, I have recently been put in charge of organizing and directing our community groups. Over the summer, one of my goals is to think through this idea of biblical hospitality in light of how we open our homes to one another, especially those whom we might not initially commune with, for whatever reason.
Chapter 8, “Around the Table” is a great primer on hospitality – one that I will be quoting from when I instruct our leaders in how to be hospitable. Hospitality is a welcome weapon against the consumer christianity of our time.
In The Divine Commodity, Skye Jethani writes:
These pastors [who encourage church leaders to "embrace entertainment"], representative of so many contemporary Christians, believe that God changes lives through the commodification and consumption of experiences. If our worship gatherings are energetic, stimulating, and exciting enough then people will attend, receive what’s being communicated, and be spiritually transformed. The justification for this approach is simple – people won’t come to a church that’s boring. And what qualifies as boring is defined by our consumer/experience economy. But the moment we believe transformation occurs via external experiences, the emphasis of the ministry must adjust accordingly. Manufacturing experiences and meticulously controlling staged environments become the means for advancing Christ’s mission. And the role of the pastor, once imagined as a shepherd tending a flock, now conjures images of a circus ringmaster shouting, “Come one, come all, to the greatest show on earth!” In Consumer Christianity, the shepherd becomes a showman.
Skye Jethani, The Divine Commodity, page 75.
This is one of the dangers of the attractional church. Even if the attractional model is a legitimate one, we run the risk of simply providing worship experiences rather than worship services. We turn the preaching of the scriptures into a product that has to be packaged just the right way to make sure people come back. We are tempted to ask questions like, “do the sacraments scare people away?” It is a dangerous cycle.
Skye Jethani’s recent book, The Divine Commodity, has been a welcome read concerning the stranglehold that consumer christianity has over most of us in the American church, even (and especially) those of us who disavow it.
Over the next week, I’ll be posting a few quotes from the book that helped me to think through the issue of consumer christianity and how to combat it.