Blatant Consumerism

I had reason to reflect recently on just how quietly consumerism has crept into my backyard, up the back steps and into my living space.
We are studying a booklet by Murray Sheard of TEAR called Living Simply.
It makes the statement “Religion has declined whenever consumerism gets hold of a nation.”
At first we all said “yes that’s right” but one wise person made the point that this is a blanket statement with no proof and backing. We made some comments but no one could argue his point. Upon arriving home I mentioned it to Christine my wife. She said, “well it might not have stats in the book but it’s a pretty correct statement. I don’t know of any first world, western civilisation in which the church is growing.”
The entire western church is in decline while consumerism and national debt from out of control spending increaces. This is a fact.
Where was my wife when I needed her, she puts up a quick argument!
Modernity has itself been one of the Churches greatest enemies. The industrial revolution and all it’s wonderful advances failed to advance the cause of Christ one bit. John Drane says, “No persecutor or foe in 2000 years has wreaked such havoc on the church as modernity.” (Evangelism for a New Age) Al Hirsch puts it like this, “We must admit that Christendom, particularly its ecclesiological and its missiological manifestations, amounts to something of a failed experiment”
Not bad for 1700 years of experimenting! Sounds depressing.
But not so.
I beleive it’s not depressing because…well because – God.
Because God, promised to never leave us nor forsake us, we’re his bride and we have always been a work in progress and this new age of challenge and stretch for the church as we once knew it is (in my opinion) just another push from the Holy Spirit to move us out of our comfort zone.

The churches greatest comfort zone?
The very buildings in which we dwell.

When will we ever learn that the very buildings we spend so much time in and money on are the very things that are holding back the effective work of Christ’s church. The more time and money we spend in and on these structures the less effective our mission will be.

Yes, I continue to live in the tension of sitting each week in a few million dollars worth of paid for structure, and I sit and hear of future dreams for building more. My kids benifit each week from rooms that manage to squeeze many kids in so they can discover Christ. I will no doubt sit one day in a multi-million dollar auditorium sparkling new and worship my Lord Jesus.
There will be a consumer in me saying, “Don’t you just love the smell of new carpet? The feel of brand new padded seats under my fat arse?”
But I hope there will be a voice inside me saying, “Can you smell the decay and death of the people who will never enter this monument to modernity? Can you hear the groans of those in the world who will never sleep on a proper bed, not to mention sit in a padded seat…with a cup holder?”

I don’t quite know what to do with all this stuff in my head. These tensions.
To leave is hard…hard because matterialism and consumerism are in me, it’s not just about a structure I go to on Sundays, it’s an attitude in my heart. I want to work for change in my own life while at the same time challenging institutions and structures about their ways.

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8 thoughts on “Blatant Consumerism

  1. i wonder if some tensions should be accomodated for, while others should be erradecated?

    let’s say if you lived in south africa under the rule of apartheid… and you went to a white church.

    would you stay worshipping in a church that upheld the segregation of an entire race of people and “hope” that a small voice continued to remind you of the attrocities your community enforced?

    is it any different to attending a church that you believe operates in such a way that wreaks of “the decay and death of the people who will never enter this monument to modernity? where you can hear the groans of those in the world who will never sleep on a proper bed, not to mention sit in a padded seat…with a cup holder?”

    I wonder if Lee Camp would call this admiring Christ?

  2. Yeah, It’s kind of Dave Andrew’s ‘bottom line’ concept. Have I found my bottom line maybe?
    I did not mean the church smelt of the decay, rather a challenge to me as to – do I smell the decay whilst the smell of ‘nice’ is in my nostrils?

  3. cool – the comment you made seemed to be in the context of the church you attended being more interested in attaining it’s nice things, than reaching out to those outside it’s walls who were decaying.

    point taken, although it feels a little individually segmented in it’s theory. wrestle on…

  4. We are called to be “an aroma to those who are perishing”. If that’s true, what aroma do our various manifestations of church (and I include Myriad and ‘the group’ in this) give to people? Are we smelling like Christ or just thinking we are.

  5. Sounds like a very elloquent and poetic way of beating around the bush of a decision that has already been made. Unlike the statement I just made.

  6. lets take a moment and let our awareness move to all our christain brothers and sisters who are right now, this very moment looking into the eyes of their sick kids desparate to buy them medicine that they cannot afford………………pictue it…..breathe……….i wonder how the 250 million christains living below the poverty line think of our pretty buildings? i wonder if they refer to us as their brothers and sisters when we sit here concuming ignoring them? i wonder if they even think that we share the same faith? i wonder what we would think if we were in their situation and their were in ours? -charlie

  7. I have been having a thought….what if every church in the world sold it’s buildings, sold it’s land, sold it’s expensive PA systems, priceless works of art etc, donated all the money to the ‘poor’ and we all started meeting in houses again, like it was in the beginning.

  8. I think it is funny that most of the people commenting on the topic have all probably become believers through the influence of these “Monuments to modernity” (including myself).

    My research has shown a massive increase in the number of people committed to Christ and Church in Australia. According to the National Church Life Survey, 19% of Australians attend church at least once a month. That’s a big increase.

    I think it’s easy to generalise and form strong opinions especially when coming out of personal experience and probably some form of hurt or poor leadership. To say that “the industrial revolution and all it’s wonderful advances has failed to advance the cause of Christ one bit” is a little harsh considering that there is no way we would have been able to reach the places we have with the gospel if not for the advances resulting from the Industrial revolution.

    I would actually like to do a study on the economic growth of a country and the growth of the church. I think it would come up with some interesting results.

    In response to the last post we need to remember that much of the church happened in the temple as well as the home (Acts 2)and I couldn’t start to imagine what they would have cost.

    Don’t just let the smell of death come upon us when we sit in church, let it come upon us when we drop our kids at school, do the grocery shopping, go to the movies. Don’t just let the horrible revelation of people going to a Christless eternity be reserved for when enter a large building, let it be when we meet in cafes and homes and when we sit and write posts on Mr Vawsers Blog. How’s the irony of discussing consumerism whilst on a $2000 computer that costs $300 a year to have the internet. Theres 10 months support for a friend of my sponsor child in Columbia.

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