I am preparing a sermon on "Functioning as a Part of the Body of Christ" for this Sunday and I have been thinking and reading about the concept of how many in the church (including Grace Church) are consumeristic in their approach to the church. What do I mean? Many people view the church in terms of what I can get for myself from the church, be it spiritual food or good feelings about God. Many, without realizing it, ask themselves -- "what can I get for my tithe or use of a Sunday morning? This church or that church?"
Paul David Tripp writes:
I am persuaded that the church today has many more consumers than committed participants. Sure, Joe and Sheila may volunteer for a specific activity like VBS or a diaconal project, but this frequently falls woefully short of the “everyone, all the time” model of the New Testament. Our tendency toward ecclesiastical consumerism has seriously weakened the church. For most of us, church is merely an event we attend or an organization we belong to. We do not see it as a calling that shapes our entire life. (Paul David Tripp – Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p. XII)
I came across this article today from Leadership Magazine by Skye Jethani that you can read here.
Here are a few quotes that stood out to me:
When we approach Christianity as consumers rather than seeing it as a comprehensive way of life, an interpretive set of beliefs and values, Christianity becomes just one more brand we consume along with Gap, Apple, and Starbucks to express identity. And the demotion of Jesus Christ from Lord to label means to live as a Christian no longer carries an expectation of obedience and good works, but rather the perpetual consumption of Christian merchandise and experiences—music, books, t-shirts, conferences, and jewelry....
Approaching Christianity as a brand (rather than a worldview) explains why the majority of people who identify themselves as born-again Christians live no differently than other Americans. According to George Barna, most churchgoers have not adopted a biblical worldview, they have simply added a Jesus fish on the bumper of their unregenerate consumer identities. As Mark Riddle observes, "Conversion in the U.S. seems to mean we've exchanged some of our shopping at Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, and Borders for the Christian bookstore down the street. We've taken our lack of purchasing control to God's store, where we buy our office supplies in Jesus name."
Ultimately we shouldn't be surprised that American Christianity has succumbed to the pervasive power of consumerism. Alan Wolf, a leading sociologist and the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, has concluded that, "In the United States culture has transformed Christ, as well as all other religions found within these shores. In every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American culture—and American culture has triumphed."
I also would recommend the reading of this article -- "The Danger of Consumerism"