There’s no denying it. If you are reading this then you probably own a computer, smart phone or tablet – maybe all three. We live in an affluent society where most of us have more than enough in a materialistic sense. But according to the world, there is always more, and you’re never happy till you own it.
Recently I have become aware of a worrying tendency for this kind of message to come through the Christian marketplace. I’m a musician by trade and I love what I do. But more fundamentally, I am trying to follow Jesus. As I attend church events and surf Christian websites, I can’t help but perceive a growing influence from the world’s value system when it comes to marketing, promotion and consumption.
What I am talking about is perhaps most obvious in the Christian music scene, but it has also infiltrated the preaching/teaching scene. You know what I mean; the shiny happy worship stars wearing expensive looking threads, with not a hair out of place. The lifestyle- type Christian magazines with the latest controversial preachers face looming large from the front cover. Even Christian charities seem to be trying to have bigger, glossier, more graphically eye-catching stands than each other in festival marketplaces.
Have you noticed that in recent years many of us tend to cite who we agree with in the great book battles? Have you noticed how we as the Western Church follow trends as if they were from high street fashions? We go to our annual Bible week and are confronted with many pounds worth of essential merchandise: programmes, study guides, songbooks, this year’s best worship songs, last year’s live worship album.
I believe strongly in feeding your soul and learning more and more about our God. There is nothing wrong with spending your money on these things per se. However, sometimes I wonder how many of us construct our Christianity out of what we buy? Has it got to the point where we rely on being fed through consumer products and following churchy trends like sheep, rather than knowing how to feed ourselves from the word first and foremost?
Would you struggle if you didn’t buy a Christian book for a year, or a new worship CD, or go to a big event?
I have at times constructed my faith, and my sense of God’s reality, through what I have bought for money. It’s a lazy way to be a follower of Jesus. It means other people can do all the thinking, praying, writing, worshiping, and then relay their experience to me. All of this didn’t satisfy me; it’s not actually my heart being connected to my God, but their heart to their God. At times, buying a new book was actually more of an expression of my doubt and my cold-heartedness than my faith. It meant I could feel holy for a little while. No wonder I didn’t finish most of those books.
Real life is found in worshiping Jesus in the enabling power of the Holy Spirit in us, and in the truth if who we really are, and who He really is. The culture of the kingdom exalts God alone. It doesn’t place people on pedestals, no matter how gifted or beautiful they are. Our culture is one where we are to be more generous than consumerist. If our idea of being a successful saint is to be a church-hold name, or to have every one of our favoured Bible week live albums lined up in our CD collection, then something is wrong. If we are spending more money on books about the kingdom than on kingdom purposes, we are not living the gospel. What good is it to gain the whole world, but lose your soul?
So let us go back to Jesus. He is enough, and he will freely give us living water, so that we won’t thirst again. Good news for us, and our wallets!
This article orginally appeared on the Chaos Curb blog.
threads asks: Is consumer culture an issue for the Church?