Thursday, November 22, 2007


I wanted to post a bit more on consumerism in the church and how serious a challenge it is to faith in the Western world but didn't really get to it. Scot McNight at Jesus Creed is posting on a recent book by Paul Metzger called Consuming Jesus.

One of the solutions Metzger proposes to the rampant consumerism practiced by Christians is a theology that begins with personal conversion that works itself out into genuine reconciliation with others and downwardly mobile ethic. But Scot McKnight's contention (counter to Metzger) is: "Either evangelicalism is filled, big-time filled, with unconverted folks or this strategy is just words. The fact is that many, if not most, of evangelicals — or those who claim personal conversion — are not that involved in the anticonsumerist and antiracist and anticlassist agenda Metzger advocates." Consumerism is so deeply entrenched in our culture - including our Christian culture - that we don't even know we are so deeply infected by it.

So because I didn't get to all that I wanted to say about consumerism I will quote from Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger (which I also included in my paper and which I have also quoted previously on this blog).

Gibbs and Bolger present an insightful critique of the consumerist mentality of many churches. Their comments, though lengthy, are worth quoting. “Today, typically, individuals come to spirituality as shoppers. They consume spiritual experiences. They pursue the next experience that promises to take them to a higher spiritual plane and yield greater growth. Churches that adopt a marketing approach treat their visitors as customers, numbers and potential converts instead of simply as people. A culture of self-interested exchange permeates the life of consumer-oriented churches, where the "customer's" financial support is solicited in exchange for spiritual services rendered. The underlying assumption is that customers are never satisfied and are liable to take their business elsewhere. Satisfaction is an elusive target, constantly moving and taking on new forms.

“Much of marketing practice borders on manipulation by creating needs. Until one sees or experiences a product one often does not "need" it. The creation and the presentation of a product create the need. Marketing is not neutral; it fosters human desire as much as it satiates it. Churchgoers associate the consumer church's products with "need satisfaction." There are areas of an individual's life that are ambiguous and insecure, to which the church seeks to respond by creating and offering products that will address those gaps. Consumer churches present a relationship with Jesus as the answer to widespread feelings of angst. Thus Jesus is turned into a product that satisfies needs. The problem is that Jesus won't satisfy individual needs, for the gospel is primarily about God's agenda, not ours. For true satisfaction to take place, needs must be reformed and transformed to correspond with the gospel.

“When Jesus is presented as a product and ceases to satisfy, as all products cease to satisfy at some point, one must then move on to another spiritual expression. By marketing Jesus, therefore, the consumer church actually makes the pain worse, for now even God (from a visitor's perception) cannot help. Instead of challenging the logic of the economic system, which the kingdom does wonderfully, the consumer church blesses the economic rules and creates transitory, surface-level Christians in the process.

“Consumerism both pacifies and disempowers people and robs them of their individuality and creative potential. Consumerism destroys community by discouraging active participation. Unbridled consumerism also leads to greed, acquisitiveness, and wastefulness as people become dissatisfied and bored with their possessions and strive for the latest and the biggest (or the smallest, in the case of gadgets).”

My comments again - the next post will continue on this theme.

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