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.