We live in a culture defined by consuming. Today companies spend billions of dollars to learn and exploit our spending habits. We’d be foolish to think a consumer culture hasn’t shaped the contours of how we think about and exist as the Church in the West. We must reject consumer Christianity.
Common consumer habits mask as unity. Think about it from the Church angle. We share music (traditional or contemporary) or asthetic preferences (warehouse or cathederal). These create a kind of unity the same way Chick-Fil-A people experience unity versus fans of Popeyes. This is the danger: Church is not a brand we consume.
Jesus unites human beings at a deeper level than our consumer habits. The unity Jesus provides is revolutionary, with the Triune God Himself as the model. (John 17:11) Consumer culture would leave us divided along generational, socioeconomic, or ethnic fault lines. The Church is not built on a brand or demographic, but on the finished work of Jesus.
So how do we escape the pull of Consumer Christianity?
Practice 1: Reclaim Weekly Disciplines
Living in a consumer culture means that drifting through our week will naturally lead us to consume. Fasting and taking a Sabbath are two disciplines which counteract the pull to consume. Fasting literally halts the most basic consumption necessary (food). Whereas consumer culture invites us to take control by providing comfort for ourselves, Sabbath invites us to take comfort in God’s control.
Practice 2: Longform Scripture Reading
Make a commitment to digest entire books in 1 or 2 sittings. Another option is reading through a single Biblical book over a long period of time. Don’t settle for quick information. Take notes. Ask questions. Sit in the tension. Longform reading helps us embrace not only information, but the framing ideas and images of the way of Jesus.
Practice 3: Radical Generosity
If we want to counteract Consumer Christianity, we have to take action. This will mean more than a few runs to Goodwill. James 1:27 invites disciples to a ministry of presence, not just ministry by proxy—the kind made possible by giving money. By all means, give with your bank account, but give yourself too. Christian generosity builds loving community, not trickle down charity. Those with resources should be on guard against using money as a privileged way of protecting oneself from the far more costly ministry of presence. Those with little should not think they have nothing to give. We give not from an excess of resources, but from an excess of grace.