Jesus made a profound statement is Luke 12:14; he said “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed”. In today’s day and age it’s not just the world that seems to flourish in a mindset of greed but also the Church. John Francis Kavanaugh writes in his book “Following Christ in a consumer society”; “a “gospel” is a book of revelation, an ultimate source of reference wherein we find ourselves revealed. A gospel is a response to the question of who we are, what we may hope for, how we may aspire to act, what endures, what is important, what is of true value. A gospel, then, is an expression of whom or what is our functional god.” We can observe in the Church today that the “American fairy tale” is sold as to good old hope of the Church!
Darold Treffert of the Winnebago Mental Health institute in Wisconsin says “the American fairy tale begins with two themes: that more possessions mean more happiness, that a person who does or produces more is more important.” For the consumer mindset achievement should be sought at any cost, even at the cost of self. Thomas Merton wrote that “the biggest human temptation was to settle for to little.” Kavanaugh writes “We are only insofar as we possess. We are what we possess. We are consequently possessed by our possessions, produced by our products. Remade in he image and likeness of our own handiwork, we are revealed as commodities. Idolatry exacts its full price from us. We are robbed of our very humanity.”
Thomas Merton comments “We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.” You might ask but why are you driving the point Rudolph? You remember the old story about Thomas Aquinas who was talking to Pope Innocent II. The pope was counting some money, and he said, “See, Thomas, the Church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold, have I none.’ Aquinas replied, “True, holy father, and neither can she now say, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk!”
What do I mean by consumer Christianity? Generally, it is any attempt to build the kingdom of God or build up the individual Christian (or attract the potential convert to Christianity) by means and methods that appeal to the flesh, i.e., the deceitful and self-serving heart of man. It had its beginning in the Garden of Eden when Satan manipulated Eve into disobeying God while believing she was enriching herself (Gen 3:1-6).
More specifically related to what’s taking place today, consumer Christianity is an endeavor to help Christian churches grow in size and become more effective through the application of business principles, marketing strategies, and management concepts. It characterizes the most popular venture in Christendom today, which should seem rather odd, if not disturbing, to anyone who has an understanding of both “consumerism” and “Christianity.” Why? Because these terms are antagonistic to one another.
In the previous Church I Pastored we were not called Pastors anymore, but Managers. Efficiency was measured by the income at large. And the quality of God’s will by how many people we could get to Church. We were not running God’s Church but our Church with sound business ethic. Our business model was more important than God’s way and our managerial skills more effective than prayer. We were a consumer driven Church.
Consumerism in the business sense is a concept based upon customer satisfaction, which is the key to any successful commercial enterprise. The product or service must be tailored to the wants and perceived needs of the customer, or there is no sustainable profit. The consumer rules, because where there is no customer, there is no profit and, therefore, no business. In the consumer market it is also very important to note that “the customer is always right”.
•Consumer prayer: This is when prayer is all about our specific needs all the time; we usually start to pray with these words… “Lord I”. Selfishly to them prayer becomes a bartering with the divine to elicit one’s own intentions and desires.
•Consumer worship: This is when we are more focused on form and style than pleasing Father. If the song grooves, we had one good “experience”. If the worship leader was a bit off, we had a not so good “session”. Worship become about the way it stirs up the people rather than the heart of God. We flavor our songs with culture, style and hype to conjure up for the peoples delight.
•Consumer preaching/sermons: Paul says “2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” We preach topically to suit our people; we sign fraudulent cheques in the name of God, hoping He would cash it in. We determine to give our opinion on the newest revelation and we are indomitable to produce unique messages.
•Consumer gifting: We try to utilize the gifting of certain individuals to elevate our own agenda’s. Pastors are pretty good at that. We prophecy them into positions and declare blessing to come by soliciting yet another “seed” from the congregants. The rank of the member’s stature is usually determined by their gifting (may it be musical, financial stature, or position/ambition in the community.)
God rules in biblical Christianity.
It is His revelation to humanity regarding “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pt 1:3). Simply put, biblical Christianity encompasses all that is necessary for man-kind to know and do in order to be reconciled to Him, to please Him daily, and to live with Him for all eternity. It is not a business endeavor and, in fact, has no relationship to business or its associated marketing concepts. Any attempt to enhance the practice of biblical Christianity by means of business principles is, at best, adding futile methodologies to God’s Word.
At worst, such an attempt rejects the sufficiency of the Scriptures in favor of works of the flesh, quenches the Holy Spirit, and subjects one to the deceptions of, the service of, and in the end, the bondage of the god of this world. In any case, it leads to spiritual destruction in the church and has eternal consequences.
The act of disenchanting, especially to disappoint or embitter. How many people have I sat with this year who said “I am so disappointed with God’s Church, God’s way of doing or allowing things, God’s lack to act on my behalf”?
We usually fear when we base our believes on something else but Fathers goodness and faithfulness.
We lack the Spiritual direction and clarity to function in even our mundane and everyday setting.
4.Frustration and Anger
Frustration is a common emotional response to opposition. Related to anger and disappointment, it arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of individual will.
There is simply no more restraint. William Barclay says the word conveys the idea of a person “who is so far gone in lust and desire” that he or she ceases “to care what people say or think” (p. 52).
We jump from experience to experience, Church to Church, fad to fad, book to book, new revelation to revelation ….yet we stay unsatisfied and unfulfilled and not so easily amused!
Getting back biblical priority:
Somehow words like Lordship, discipleship, denial of self and faithfulness seem to bewilder the consumer mindset. Jesus makes an amazing statement in John’s gospel He says “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
Our aim should never be to relate a product or indulge in an experience. Rather it should be to please the Father and to obey Him. We cannot build the kingdom with the consumer mandate, because we will hate the one or the other. Using a secular model to invigorate the Christian Church will never in itself be fruitful. So let us get back to the heart of the Father and the intention of His Son and allow Him to built His Church. (Matthew 16:18)Selah
~Rudolph P. Boshoff
~Rudolph P. Boshoff