I recently read an article by Mark Van Steenwyk on consumerism and the Christian walk. The article caught my eye because of this line;
Consumerism is the Spirit of our Age. We look at all things through its lens. Everything from goods--to relationships--to our God, falls victim to the consumerist impulse, and is thus commodified.
As I read that line, I felt as if I had been slapped by a 2x4 across my forehead. I knew that in many ways I had bought into that mentality as a church leader. I wanted to MAKE people like us! I wanted people to think that we could meet their "requirements" for a church. I wanted people to come because they would appreciate how far we would go to "meet their needs". What I really wanted to believe was that our society was not so focused on "so what do I get out of it" that community and fellowship had become nice theories rather than living principles, but I realized that this is where we are.
Unfortunately, consumerism is the spirit of our age and we must deal with it if we are going to be the people He has called us to be. I believe we have to take a stand for what God requires of us as His people.
Micah 6: 8b, And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I believe we have to see what this really means. Please hear this! It is not about spending less money, more money or giving to the right cause or right church. It is about changing the way we view ownership. It is about seeing ourselves in the bigger picture of God's global society and our relationship to the world. It is about a challenge to view ourselves not as autonomous, self-contained and self-directed people, but truly a part of God's people and God's design.
Van Steenwyk lists 6 things we must understand:
- Our possessions are not our own. If we desire a new good, the determining factor shouldn't be our ability to afford it.
- Our relationships are not commodities. We are called to submit to one another, instead of entering into some sort of relational transaction in which our needs and wants are met.
- Our virtues reflect Scripture...which is often at odds with our societal values of "success", "productivity", "efficiency", and "affluence".
- Our churches are not dispensers of religious goods and services. We don't shop for churches. We don't go to the church that most aligns itself with our tastes and wants. The discernment process is much deeper than that.
- Our faith isn't a set of commodities. We don't create our own personal creed and our own personal faith. It is developed in community, as we submit to the presence of the Spirit and the reading of the Scriptures in community.
- Our God isn't the ultimate commodity. We don't sell Jesus. We don't buy-in to belief. Our response to God is one of worship. He consumes us.
I am a product of our society and its focus, and I have to address my own perceptions (and misguided understandings) if I am to continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus the Christ. Bridesburg Presbyterian Church must also deal with her perceptions as we continue on the path God has laid before us.
The reality of consumerism is not something from which we can run away. We need to confront it with truth and the ultimate hope that comes from a walk of faith: therefore, to reveal the relevance of Jesus to all people we will need to be the witnesses of what is true in order that people will see that there is more to faith than what we get out of it.