Are we caught in consumer Christianity?

OIP

How can I sing a new song of deliverance to those who have no hope, if, at the same time, I insist on remaining comfortable among those who do?

In my early Christian days I was honored to be part of a movement built around songs of salvation. We were personally involved in ministries of mercy and issues of compassion and significance. We took on the voice of the prophets, penetrating into those aspects of our culture where the truth of God had a sure and true word for us. We articulated the vision of a radical kind of Christian discipleship. Our voices shined the light of God on the darkness of racism and injustice, and we awoke others to the realities of poverty and corruption.

Many miracles occurred during that season. Yet sadly, few churches were ready for this new influx of radicals, so the movement thrived without many churches participating or offering invitations of welcome. There was more freedom and a far more receptive audience outside.

Why were so many churches not ready? In my opinion, they were much too comfortable with the status quo. One of my earliest songs, “The Cold Cathedral” cried for spiritual reality in the midst of religious deadness, sameness, and a comfort-seeking isolation from the real needs of people — inside and outside the church.

While no longer cold, I fear many of our churches today are in similar places of complacency for other reasons. Instead of cold cathedrals, we might refer to many churches today as “cool” cathedrals – “cool,” as in “stylish, fashionable, in vogue” — the cool place to be. They are so “cool” (cool music, cool looking guitar players, cool worship leaders who sing like top forty stars, cool lights and sound) that relevancy could in some instances be considered the new god. Today, we seem to again reflect the concerns of the status quo, and the easy acceptance of a world where everything caters to the “customer.”

We produce a massive consumer niche of ready-to-buy wear, and applaud whatever fits in our pre-described mold of entertainment-oriented discipleship. We dress the way we want to dress, sing songs we want to sing, and hear messages we want to hear. Everything is catered to us. It’s also about a short list of predetermined social issues and not the widespread prophetic agenda of justice and compassion. We are consumer Christians.

It is time to stop avoiding conflict — stop dodging Jesus — for a more comfortable, more cool Christianity. God wants to drive us right into conflict so He can demonstrate His love and mercy through us where it is most clearly needed.

It is time we sang a new song – a song of deliverance and hope without judgment, as we apply the Gospel in a way that embodies Christ’s heart for the hurting, the weak, and the outcast. It is a new song of reconciliation that causes those with no hope to hear, to run to Him and not away from Him, because acts of love are occurring and not just words.

We have a new song made even surer than the songs of those who mounted the countercultural Jesus movement of the early 70‘s. It is time for isolation and protection to cease. It is time to be the hands, feet and heart of the gospel. Time to venture out of our comfortable places and meet Jesus where He is.

And where is He? He is with the vulnerable and the poor. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives. He is in the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. God is with us when we are with those who hurt.

Are we giving people what they want or what they need? Those are often not the same thing.

This entry was posted in church, hope, Jesus Movement, new frontier and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Are we caught in consumer Christianity?

  1. kellief4 says:

    We are working on our theme for homecoming this summer at church. I had literally JUST texted the other person who wanted my thoughts and told her I’d be thinking and praying about it but what kept coming into my mind was HOPE. And then BOOM, here comes your devotion. And it takes the idea of hope even deeper than what I was first thinking. Sometimes God just smacks you over the head when He wants to get something across!

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      LOL, over this truth you wrote: “Sometimes God just smacks you over the head when He wants to get something across!” And Amen!

  2. Mark D Seguin says:

    Dear Pastor John this Catch just absolutely FIRED me up! And Amen & TY 4 it too!

  3. My apologies ahead of time for the following lengthy response(s).
    However, due to the length, today you get a twofer – how lucky is that, huh?!😊
    I pray whomever reads these through to the end will be challenged, encouraged, and blessed. Shalom, Peace…

    I’m not sure that church (lower case c) is regarded as a “cool” place to hang out any longer due to the most recent maelstrom of divisiveness and infidelity created through allegiances with entities that are, themselves, suspect as to their local, national, and worldwide goals and ambitions. Those entities aren’t interested in serving God or His creation but are substituting their values toward immediate gratification and social justice (or injustice) that churches have found alluring and have bought in to. There is an appearance of righteousness, maybe even a mirage of “love”, so for the sake of expediency many churches think they can change the world for what they perceive as “better” by allying themselves with these entities. Perhaps they believe they can force God’s hand to clean up todays messes quicker than His timeline dictates and, in the process, win over converts.
    These entities are happy to have church recruits that bolster their numbers and will gladly walk hand-in-hand with any of the religious organizations that show support for their causes through money, recognition, and boots-on-the-ground engagement. They’re not necessarily interested in spreading God’s Word or Love but, hey, if it helps fulfill their socio-political agenda then they’ll be glad to share the same bed with any church – a so-called “friend-with-benefits” relationship.
    But that arrangement can last just so long before one or the other dominates the relationship or a messy break-up occurs. Usually, the carnal-minded entity wins out over the worldly-minded church and, soon, news of scandals, betrayals, and all sorts of unsavory revelations are made public. How “cool” is that church any longer?
    People are generally smart enough to abandon a sinking ship but are they wise enough to avoid boarding a boat that advertises the same comforts they once enjoyed?
    It’s beyond time to move out of our comfort zones…

  4. The following is an excerpt from a pamphlet titled “The Church and War” written by Evelyn Underhill in 1940. Underhill was an acclaimed writer in England during the first half the twentieth century and she had worked for Naval Intelligence during World War I.
    While the words below were written with World War II in mind – when England and the rest of Europe were being devastated – they are equally as applicable for today’s spiritual battles and commitments the true Church (upper case C), the true Body of Christ faces,..

    “We are moving – perhaps more rapidly than we realize – towards a moment in which the Church, if she is to preserve her integrity and her spiritual influence, will be compelled to define her attitude towards war;
    The Christian Church is the Body of Christ. Her mission on earth is to spread the Spirit of Christ, which is the creative spirit of wisdom and love; and in so doing bring in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, she can never support or approve any human action, individual or collective, which is hostile to wisdom and love.
    The Church is in the world to save the world. The whole of human life is her province, because Christianity is not a religion of escape but a religion of incarnation, not standing alongside human life, but working in and through it. So, she is bound to make a choice and declare herself on the great issues of that life, and carry through her choice into action however great the cost;
    Christianity stands for absolute values, and the Church falls from grace every time she compromises about them, for she is a supernatural society, consisting of persons who have crossed over from the world’s side to God’s side and have accepted service under the august standard of the Cross, with all that service of the Cross implies. Necessarily then, though in the world the Church can never be of it. For the world detests absolute values; they are so inconvenient. “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
    It is true that in this realistic sense the Church is a small body and Christians are a small party, but the Holy Spirit “works through minorities,” and it may be that He is in this present hour giving the Church one of the greatest opportunities she has been offered in the course of her career. That stirring of men’s minds to a desire for peace which is the most striking fact of our present situation is a manifest working of the Spirit of God. The first business of the Church is surely to give unlimited support to this movement wherever it appears, invest it with the fire, the passion, the beauty proper to humanity’s greatest aspirations, invite all whom it has touched to a share in her sources of power, and offer them constructive work that they can do;
    The Church is, or should be, the rallying point for all those who believe in the creative and redeeming power of this tranquil and generous love, for those who trust God, and are sure that those hidden, spiritual forces which condition and support our life can and will intervene – not to save us from suffering or material loss, not in the interest of personal or national selfishness, but to secure in the teeth of opposition the ultimate triumph of God’s Will.
    Now, as never before, men’s consciences are moved and their fear is roused by the awful spectacle of war allied with science and allowed to work out unchecked the consequences of this dread partnership – the mind of man, and the will of man, wreaking destruction on God’s world. Only Christianity can say why these things are evil, and offer a method whereby this evil can be dealt with at the source, namely, in the hearts of men. Christianity alone holds the solution of humanity’s most terrible and most pressing problem. She alone has something really practical to say, for to her has been confided the Word of God for men.
    It is the Church’s hour; and she will not face it, because like the hour of birth it means risk, travail, inevitable pain. We are forced to the bitter conclusion that the members of the Visible Church as a body are not good enough, not brave enough, to risk everything for that which they know to be the Will of God and the teaching of Christ. For it does mean risking everything, freedom, reputation, friendship, security – life itself. It is the folly of the Cross, in the particular form in which our generation is asked to accept it; that absolute choice which the Rich Young Man could not make. “If I were still pleasing men, I should not be the slave of Christ, ” said St. Paul to the Galatians. The Church is still very busy pleasing men. She has yet to accept with all its penalties the fact of being in the world and not of it, of having renounced the world’s methods and standards and put all her confidence in God’s method and standards. Because of this, her supernatural life is weak and ineffective, and her influence on the nations is slight. Only when she does make that crucial act of acceptance will she become in the full sense that which she is meant to be: the organ on earth of the Divine transforming power.”

    ~ “The Church and War” written 1940 by Eveyn Underhill (1875-1941)

    Be a blessing. Be blessed. Be of good will. Be cheerful. Be courageous. Be encouraged.

    Shalom, Peace my friends…

  5. Toni Petrella says:

    God is really giving us a reality check. This message hits right what is needed. The Lord is everywhere and we must never get too comfortable or we will miss what is truly important. No matter how beautiful a church is inside and out, God doesn’t care about that. He cares about people getting the message thru his Son Jesus Christ.

  6. Jim Catlin says:

    “The Church is still very busy pleasing men. She has yet to accept with all its penalties the fact of being in the world and not of it, of having renounced the world’s methods and standards and put all her confidence in God’s method and standards.” Evelyn Underhill [thanks for the post bobnearseattle]

    I think that there is much to contemplate in that statement regarding our present moment.

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