Monday, April 21, 2008

Enfleshing the Gospels

On Sunday we had another Mosaic book club where we are going through The Forgotten Ways. This is the second time I have been through the book. This time fleshing out the ideas of the book is a lot less esoteric. I see that the Mosaic Community has the potential to challenge and change Wellington. We are desiring to learn and put in the hard. This is actually the book that led me into thinking about joining Mosaic when I read it. I was reading it and I was going through the desire for Movement. That was my theme word at the time, and I needed to move forward and to flesh out what God had layed on my heart at that time.

So I’ve digressed, why have I called this blog enfleshing the gospel. We went through a discussion on the chapter the “missional-incarnational impulse.” If anyone knows me you will realise that I believe contextualisation is a highly important concept to me. Many times I have summed this up in the idea of “relevance.” That as Christians we need to be relevant to the culture that we live in, we have to speak the language and follow embed into the culture. The problem with the concept of “relevance” is its limitation – which I struggle with. If we are to be relevant, we can quickly fall to the woes of syncretism, becoming watered down and P.C, losing our impulse and our message. Rather than being relevant, we are to enflesh to gospel.

Enfleshment is a different idea. The heart of this is enfleshing the key message of the Gospels. Enfleshment means that we live out a life that shows the key values and moral framework. For this to happen though we must know what our key values are, otherwise if we don’t, they will sure shaped by the world around us (trust me I know this all too well.) So, one of the key things for Mosaic to do is to find out what its key values are and what its DNA is. Luckily, as being part of a bigger movement we have been helped up big time. As a community, we are to be a community of faith, known by love and we are to be a voice of home in the world. These core values go to the heart of what we intend to be. A community of Christ followers transforming the world around us by living out the Jesus story in the way we act and lives. To do this we need to know our saviour, we need to know the gospels. Not intellectually knowing Jesus, but intimately knowing Jesus. Constantly being transformed by Jesus we are continually sent into the world. As one missional movement tells us, we are living out Acts 29 today.

We have to remember our DNA. The heart of the Christian DNA is the story of Jesus and the gospels. If we forget this, we will lose our heart.

So what does enfleshment mean for us as Christians. We it means that we are to be incarnational. Living out Christ in the World. As Christians we believe that God became human and lived amongst us. He came in on our turf and lived amonst us to bring salvation and to radically identify with us. Hirsh says in his book “The Incarnation not only qualifies God’s acts in the worlds, but must also qualify ours If God’s central way of reaching the world was to incarnate himself in Jesus, the our way of reaching the world should likewise be incarnational. To act incrationally therefore will mean in part that our mission to those outside the faith we will need to exercise affinity with those we are attempting to reach. At the very least it will mean moving into common geography/space and so set up an abiding presence amongth the group. But the basic motive of incarnational ministry is also revelatory – that they may come to know God through Jesus. (authors emphasis).

There are four Ps that some up incarnational lifestyle; they are Presence, proximity, powerlessness and proclamation.

Presence: Presence meanings to out a normal human life and living a profoundly disturbingly normal way. But engaging in mission through normality. As the Vineyard forefather John Wimber says, we are to be “Naturally Supernatural.” We are to be in relationship, relationship is the key means to transfer the message of the gospel and engage in mission. Our lives embody and enflesh the message and we naturally tell a story to the people around us of redemption, hope and restoration. We tell people through the way we live that they have worth and that God loves them and wants to spend time with them.

Proximity: As Christians we are to mix with every level of society. Jesus engaged with every level of society and found disciples at every level of society. As people we are not only present, but we are genuinely available. We need to from genuine relationships, be part of the activities that others are involved in, have lunch with people, engage in intentional relationship.

Powerlessness: This means that we are not imperialistic. We take on a shape of humility in the world. We have to be willing to form relationships with people who are completely antagonistic to what we hold on to and be willing to truly love through it all, as Jesus did. I think as I continue to read the gospels I really realise just how far Jesus would go to love his enemies and also to try to rescue even those who did not accept his message. It is totally revolutionary. Jesus humbly came as a servant to all, to seek and save the lost.

Proclamation: We can never forget the message of the gospel and realise that is what we have been put here for. We are called to share the gospel in real ways. We are called to live out the gospel minute by minute, day by day.

We are figuring out what this means for our community, actually we will always be re-evaluating this and finding out what it means to live out the gospel in our context.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Discipleship, the Mission of the Church

According to CS Lewis, the Churches purpose is to draw people to Christ and make them like Christ. He said that church exists for no other purpose. “If the Church is not doing this, then all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, even the Bible are a waste of time.”

I believe the heart of what CS Lewis is saying is that the mission of the church is to make disciples for Jesus.
This is what Jesus commanded us to do in the Gospels in the great commission (not the great omission!) And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mat 28:18-20)
We were discussing this at our Mosaic, Forgotten Ways Book club. Our aim is to see Mosaic become a true disciple-making machine in Wellington. Yet we need to ask the question for ourselves, what does this mean?

Questions that have arisen with this.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?

How do we become a disciple making movement?

How do we measure the success of a disciple making movement? Do numbers matter?

I have some thoughts on this, but would like some discussion. Please add your views/opinions.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Theological Liberalism as a symptom of Institutional Decline

This is another qoute from Alan Hirsh's forgotten ways which hit me when I first read the book.

Theological Liberalism is an indicator of institutional decline not only because it tries to minimise the necessary tension between gospel and culture by eliminating the culturally offending bits, but because it is basically a parasitical ideology. I don’t mean this to be offensive to my liberal brothers and sisters; I wish to merely point out that theological liberalism rarely creates new forms of church or extends Christianity in any significant way, but rather exists and “feeds of” what the more orthodox missional movements started. Theological Liberalism always comes later in the history of a movement, and it is normally associated with its decline. It is therefore a highly institutional manifestation of Christendom. As such it is deadly to apostolic forms of missional movement. But most established denominations, including the move evangelical ones, are also built squarely on Christendom assumptions of church and therefore, like all institutions, are facing significant threat and need to be led to the edge of chaos. It is there, by living in the tensions that it brings, they will find more authentic and missional ways of being Gods people. So leaders turn the heat up, but manage it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I was pleased to find that AJ Chesswass had put a link to my blog on his blog. I was confused to find that he had put my blog under Anglican Blogs. I'm confused because I have spent very little time in Anglican churches myself so I don't know how I can be considered Anglican. So AJ Chesswass or anyone else, can you help me understand how I can be considered Anglican. Feel free to enlighten me on the topic of how I am anglican, or any other topic you feel interested in.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Primal Branding

Book review of book by Patrick Hanlon called Primal Branding: Create Zealots for your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future. Reviewed by David Mays.

Hanlon has been a senior executive at some of the world’s most creative advertising agencies. Hanlon says that a brand is a community of believers held together by seven assets that create a belief system. A concept book, it is long on description including many illustrative examples and stories.

“What is the magic glue that sticks together consumers and Google, Mini Cooper, and Oprah and not others?” (4) “The result of this quest led to a much larger question of how ideologies—belief systems—come to exist.” There are ‘seven definable assets that construct meaning behind the brand…seven brand messages that must be delivered to create preferential brand appeal.” (6)
“Primal branding is about delivering the primal code.” “Those seven assets are: ‘the creation story”; “the creed”; “the icons”; “the rituals”’ “the pagans”’ “the sacred words”’ and “the leader.” Together, these pieces of primal code construct a belief system. Brands are belief systems.” (6)

“Once you look at a brand as a belief system, it automatically gains all the advantages that enterprise strives for: trust, vibrancy, relevance, a sense of values, community, leadership, vision, empathy, commitment, and more. With the seven pieces of primal code in place you have created a belief system and products and services that people can believe in.” (7)
“Believing is belonging. When you are able to create brands that people believe in, you also create groups of people who feel that they belong.” “…we all want to belong to something larger than ourselves. That community can surround a product or service, a personality, a social or political cause, or a civic community.” (7)

“What we call primal branding is the ability to make people feel better about your brand than another.” (7)

The Creation Story. “Where you come from is as important for people to know as what you believe and what your advantages are.” “It is crucial for everyone to have an understanding of who you are and where you come from. It is the foundation of trust.” (11-12) “Creation stories usually embody the who and the why. Who the founder of any nation or organization was and why they started is important for people to know.” (13-14) “The creation story often involves a mythic quest.” (16) “The creation story is the crucial first step in providing answers to why people should care about you, or your product or service.” (19)

The Creed. “All ideologies begin with a set of core principles.” (20) “Defining, understanding, and communicating your mission are critical to the success of your brand….” “These are all simple, concise statements that embody hugely bold ideas. The creed is the singular notion that you want people to believe.” (21)

The Icons. “Icons are quick concentrations of meaning that cause your brand identityIdentity-Issues and brand values to spontaneously resonate. The Nike swoosh.” “The smell of Cinnabons,” …sensory imprints that instantly summon the brand essence.” “The simplest and often easiest icon to recognize is the company logo.” (26) But there are many other kinds of icons.

The Rituals. “Our daily lives are filled with … key ritualistic behaviors.” Driving to work in the morning. Logging onto the Internet or searching Google. “Rituals are touch points with your brand and ideology that might be made more pleasant, more engaging, enhanced, simplified, less frustrating, or more fun.” (54)

“When large corporations merge…they bring with them a collision of competing rituals.” “The truth is that the spirit of both companies is built, in part, around those seemingly unimportant rituals.” (55)

Rituals are the meaningful repeated points of contact between you and your guest, customer, client, or target market.” “These interactions with the customer can be flat experiences, or they can serve as enriching touch points that excite consumers and intensify the brand experience.” (68) “The real power is understanding how rituals can be tweaked and made more interesting, more evolved, or otherwise better suited to their purposes.” (56)

The Pagans, or Nonbelievers. “Part of saying who you are and what you stand for is also declaring who you are not and what you don’t stand for.” (70) 7Up declared itself the ‘uncola.’ “Defining your pagans is important in defining who you are. This can be difficult when marketers do not want to exclude potential customers and mass markets.” (71)

The Sacred Words. “All belief systems come with a set of specialized words that must be learned before people can belong.” “If you are a computer user you understand what it means to ‘log on,’ what a ‘virus’ is, and what it means to ‘crash.’ (72) “Words tell who we are.” “Therefore, sacred words are not simply professional jargon but … also bind people together as a group and are often crucial to working together effectively.” (73)

Any teenage text messaging knows ttyl 2g 2wk lyl. “If you know the language, you belong.” (75) “Many sacred words are invented constructions. iPod. Iced grande skinny decaf latte.” (76) “Belief systems come with their own invented lexicon that has precious meaning for those who believe.” (77)

The Leader. “All successful belief systems have a person who is the catalyst, the risk taker, the visionary, the iconoclastDriven-to-the-Brink May-07 who set out against all odds…to re-create the world according to their own sense of self, community, and opportunity.” (78) “Enterprise without a leader is like a headless elephant. It may eventually get somewhere, but only by destroying everything in its path along the way.” (78)

Primal Belonging.“All belief systems have people who believe, advocates who feel that the brand offers a place where they can belong.” “First, consumers invest themselves in your brand by purchasing products or services because they believe in them. Second, they are willing to help convince others to belong…. Finally, advocates believe so strongly in the brand that they fiercely defend it against rivals.” (87)

“Properly managed, the primal construct can help you create a belief system that results in a group of evangelists committed to advocating for you through thick and thin.”

“Often, the most overlooked group is the people inside your own organization. If you can’t get your employees to believe, how can they possibly convince others…to believe?” (88)
“Building a sense of community is what belonging is all about.” (94)

Primal Perfect. [I’m not sure what these titles mean. dlm]To order at Starbucks you have to learn the sacred language. The ritual of affordable luxury is intensified. Pepsi topes the list of Coke pagans. The IBM creed was the slogan, “Think!” The Amazon creation story was about Jeff Bezos writing up the business plan in the back seat while his wife drove across the country. Fast Company magazine developed a relationship with its readers. The icons were the magazine issues and the monthly ritual was picking it up on the newsstand. The humble brown vehicles tell customers UPS represents their customers and not themselves. The icons, rituals, and creed of the Marine Corps run very deep.

“The primal code is all part of a narrative; it is storytelling. When pieces of the story are missing, the story becomes less interesting, people become less interested. …they feel dissatisfied and turn away.” (153)

The Primal Personality.Television and movie stars are brands. “If Oprah has a creed, it is about self-determination and personal growth.” “…doing what my heart says all the time.” (195)
Primal Reengineering.“Primal branding is an organizing principle to help products, services, personalities, and civic communities achieve popular appeal.” (209) “The sever pieces of primal code are a map—or checklist—that can help guide your efforts to create a brand that people can believe in.” (210)

“Many firms still haven’t figured out their company creed, or a statement that declares what they are all about.” (211)

“Brands are active engagements that continually reboot themselves to keep the consumer wondering what’s going to happen next.” (211)

“The first step in primal branding is to determine where your brand exists in the minds of customers.” (215)

“The origin story is the beginning of the brand narrative, the start of the mission.” “When companies merge…the origin story needs to be rebooted around the new corporate vision.” (217)

“The creed should answer the question, Why do we belong in people’s lives? … Why should people care?” “What, after all, does your company believe in?” (218) “The creed is a principle; it is what the company is about.” It is a ‘promise to a customer.” “The responsibility is to make sure that in every way you are meeting the expectation of the consumer.” (220)

“The expression of what your product or service is about becomes concentrated and instantly communicated in your icons.” “Icons can be as simple as your company logo or as discreet as senses like taste or smell. Icons can be the product itself.” “How does your brand make an impression?” (220)

“…rituals are actions that involve how the product is used, how the service is engaged, where and how the consumer goes to shop, and how the product is maintained, returned, renewed, downloaded, or updated.” “…think through how people become involved with your brand.” (223)

The pagans are most often your competition. “Who are you not? What are you trying to avoid? Who are you up against?” (225)

“What are the words that define your company or yourself? What words resonate internally or with consumers? What words help define who you are or what you want to become?” (226)
“Finally, you must find leaders. The natural place to look within large organizations is to the founder, chief executive officer, or president.” (227)

“Creating a corporate work culture that people can believe in is critical for employee enthusiasm, work performance, and efficiency. It also motivates vendors, suppliers, lenders, and others who come into contact with the organization. Establishing and promoting a working culture is critical when companies merge together.” (229)

When employees don’t understand the values of the company they bring their own. “The result is a confused sense of mission, blurred motivations, loss of leadership, disgruntled employees, and apathy.” (230)

“Using primal branding, leaders can create and sustain a company and mission that people believe in.” “The essence of this belonging resonates in a refreshed sense of commitment, trust, empathy, vision, mission, and values within the organization.” “Building corporate cultures is one of the most vital tasks facing organizations today.” (213)

“Brands are ideologies with their own universe of truths, iconography, history, heroes, and demons.” (233) “The more pieces of code communicated to your public, the stronger your cause, organization, product, service, or community.” “Creating a world of believers means creating a group of people who feel they belong to your ideals and want to convince others of your cause.” (235)

“Think of the things that means something to you. They all come from someplace (‘creation story’). They stand for something (‘creed’). They are symbolized by a sign, a sound, a smell (‘icon’). You do certain specified things regarding them (‘rituals’). Certain words evoke that experience (‘sacred words’). You contrast that experience against other experiences (‘pagans’). They have an individual, whether real or fictional, who is behind the whole thing (‘leader’). It’s all about creating a sense of meaning.” (237)

“Primal branding contains a web of relationships and inferences that bang at the drum of our emotional mind-set.” (239)

HT: Alan Hirsh

The Monkey in the Room - Part 3 - Consumer Christianity vs Discipleship

I don’t believe the consumerist model of church is good for discipleship. Safety, security and convenience impede our ability to grow and discover Jesus’s purpose.

Lets look at fish and biology. Have you ever had pet fish before, you put them in a bowl, feed them, clean there water and keep them safe, but they never grow as big as wild fish. They may be safe but they are really really fragile, if you tap the glass or cause them any stress at all they will die. There wild cousins face much more dangerous environments but they are stronger for it.

The issue for the church is that by creating a cushy safe environment for saints it makes it much harder for them to be effective witnesses to those around them and creates an issue for them in how to grow and become more like Jesus.

Erwin Mcmanus in his pod cast “The Gauntlet”, from his series “Living the Original Life” argues that the journey of discipleship is not easy but extremely difficult. He cites the verses in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian where it says:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
(1Co 9:24-27)

The verses clearly state that discipleship isn’t an easy ride, it involves hard training and discipline. I play indoor netball. I know that if because I don’t practice I struggle to improve. But if I was to practice every day and put time in it I would be a much better player than I am at present. To become good at something you need to practice and put passion into it. To be a marathon runner you need to go the distance and train your body for endurance. This is extremely difficult and painful, but has to be done. So too with the Christian faith, if we want to be people who reach out there is going to be pain and hard work. It means learning and practicing the gifts and fruits. If we are not hospitable, the only way we are going to learn how to be hospitable and learn the value is through practice, even when it hurts.

The issue with the consumerist mode of church is that many times it is based around comfort and meeting fixed needs. To get people through the door it makes the church experience easy, feeding easy sermons and easy worship experiences. As I was told by one Christian leader a number of years – this produces McDonalds Christians. Christians who feed on quick easy convenient food which makes you happy at the time but makes you fat, rather than training, eating well and working hard at endurance exercises.

I want to end personally, I am struggling personally to figure out in my life what is that is enslaving me and what is good. Is it ok to buy that next CD, or is it wrong. How am I using my time, resources and energy. Am I using my time to serve Gods purposes and to love people, or do I use my energy and time for serving my own personal needs. I want to live my life for a bigger purpose. I don’t want to be enslaved to stuff or desire for stuff, because I have been freed by the grace of God. I want to give myself to that purpose and live that out in my every action.

The Monkey in the Room - Part 2 - The Condition of the Attractional Mode of church

Jane is a Christian, she goes to a large church on a Sunday morning. This isn’t the first church she has gone to, actually she used to go to the large church down the street. She found that the worship was too loud at the other church, plus the sermons were not speaking to her needs. So she decided she needed to move on to another church.

When she walks into church she gets a friendly greeting from the ushers, she walks past the door of the church, there she sees a whole lot of CDs from her churches world famous worship band and books from her esteemed Pastor about how to gain everything you wish by saying a one simple prayer. She goes in and sits next to her friends. They talk about the most recent conference they have been on. “Oh man it really changed my life. I have never felt this good about my relationship with God!” Didn’t you love that worship band they had there, man I have to get that album, it just moved me so much closer to God.” They stand and sing some songs, such as “I am found in the arms of the one that I love.” The preacher comes up and speaks for half an hour, seeming to be more focused on preaching the benefits and grace he has received from his cellphone than speaking about the love and grace of Jesus Christ. They go home after the sermon, feeling happy that they feel good about what has been preached and that they can implement the three easy steps the life and happiness that were preached.

Now I have to say that not all this is bad stuff, in and of itself. Music is a good way to worship God, I use it myself. I also believe that we do need to give people a friendly greeting and reach out to new people. But I do have some issues with the attractional model of church. Let’s look at one issue that I’ve brought up here. The conference and the conference Christian:

I have to be frank here; I have been one of the conference Christians in my past. Also I have to state that there is nothing with conferences, but they are only a means to an end, and not an end in themselves. But what I’ve found, especially with the more Pentecostal and charismatic conferences is people go to them to get their spiritual buzz and spiritual high then go back to life where nothing changes. People go for there to here their favourite worship band or favourite speaker. Its dressed up many a times in the fact that “God will be there” but God is there in our ordinary day lives. Going back to this it seems God is only in the exciting fun times of life, the mountain top experiences, yet God is present in the valleys as well. I got very frustrated about this over the years. Why was it that we thought that God was present only when he shouted, when it says in the Bible that he wasn’t in the wind, the fire or in the earthquake but was present in a still whisper. I remember the last consumer conference I went to, I was already questioning a lot of what the evangelical church was looking like and I went to this conference and found a lot of what was going on to just seem like window dressing, it seemed fake to me rather than real and true. I was rather disoriented by the experience. Especially since I had been to the same event over a number of years and had thought I had found something there. I know people do experience God there and don’t get me wrong I think he was present there. But why do we need to go to conferences to get a religious experience? I believe conferences are still important but as I said they are a means rather than an end in themselves. I don’t want to be legalistic in this, I want to go back to this conference and go to others in the future. I’m just cautious in how I approach them.

The sad thing, this is a reality in the consumer world, the marketer sells something which is close to reality but really is a plastic alternative. We sell experiences that seem to be truly spiritual but really are not the real package.

Hirsh states

In the modern and post-modern situation, the church is forced into the role of being little more than a vendor of religious goods and services. And the end-users of the church’s services (namely, us) easily slip into the role of discerning individualistic consumers, devouring the religious goods and services offered by the latest and best vendor. Worship, rather than being entertaining through creatively engaging the hearts and minds of the hearers, now becomes mere entertainment that aims at giving the participants transcendent emotional highs, much like the role of the “feelies” in Aldous Huxleys Brave New World, where people go the movies merely to get a buzz.

Church growth exponents used the ideas of big buisiness to try and grow churches. They used business marketing to offer better and bigger “products” to get people into their church. The reality is they commodified the experience, and made church ‘services’ into a shopping mall for Christians to come and get fat at. The reality is that these services are greatly passive, with at least 80% of the church sitting passively receiving their felt needs. These churches focus on slick presentation skills and even gimmicks to get people to come to their church.

The aim of these churches is for people to have convenience, security and safety, feeding our felt needs.

A particular form that we know of consumerism present within the Christian church is the prosperity doctrine. The belief that if you are a Christian you will be healthy and happy and wealthy, because somewhere in the bible it teaches that (this is at the extreme end of the scale). In some churches it is scary how successful this style of preaching has been, it one megachurch in america, when the pastor changed from teaching the gospel to teaching a more properity based doctrine the church has grown to 3 times its original number and is one of the largest churches in the States. The problem with the prosperity doctrine is that it is very very very destructive. It has destroyed numerous churches as greed takes hold in these church and corrupts church leadership. I really really do not believe that it is a biblical idea. It has been created to make people feel comfortable but is not anywhere close to what God intended.

I believe that for Christians to be truly the images of Christ light to the world, we have to denounce the message of consumerism in the way we live out the gospel (I may hit on this in a later post. I do not believe that we can marry consumerist culture with the gospel, they are opposing ideas and ways of living. Consumerism is too strong a spiritual force to marry too, it corrupts and damages the message of the gospel.

The Monkey in the Room - Part 1

The Monkey in the Middle of the Room

I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For thoughI am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
(Col 2:4-8)

In my post “The Dangers of Syncretism” I highlighted the dangers of blending ideologies and religions with Christianity, and the fact that many times the Christian Church has not taken seriously the confession “Jesus is Lord.” Lisa has responded with further clarification on her blog on how to define syncretism and has argued that it has a presence throughout historical Christendom. Lisa comments, "Syncretism as it is understood in the modern Christian theological scene is ‘the incorporation of non-christian elements’ into Christendom. Every Christian culture in every epoch has done it. The western church does it, the eastern Church do it, they do it in Africa and Asia, they probably do it at your church."

I believe that syncretism is a major issue that as Christians we have to tackle. As Christians our allegiance is not to the ideas/idols/philosophies of the day. The danger is that if we do not ally ourselves with Jesus and let him reign present in our lives – submitting ourselves to his rule, we allow ourselves be shaped by the culture and we lose our force..

Hirsh in his work argues that the greatest challenge to the Christian message today is Consumerism. Consumerism has risen as a powerful reality as the power of the free market in our lives has gained a greater grip over our culture in the western world. Big corporations and there marketing brands have found that they can coerce buyers through co-oping religious and theological material to brand themselves. For example, Levis in New Zealand a couple of years ago used the image of a women going into the sea in her undies and coming out “born again” in her levis jeans. Marketers are using the idea that if you have the latest gadgets you will be part of a community and be accepted and loved because of the gadgets you own (Mac Zealots are now even being labelled by many “the cult of Mac”) Gaining more stuff and remaking your life and house has become linked to “improving your life.” Designer experiences to get emotional and spiritual and emotional highs are so common within our society that it isn’t funny. Reality TV shows, home do up shows, theme parks, even our overseas holidays all feed this need within the western condition for something more.

Hirsh states

Under this excessive influence of the market, experiences, indeed life itself tends to become commodified. In such an economy, people are viewed as mere consumptive units. The suburbs all orbit around the central consumerist temple called The Shopping Mall. Teenagers walk aimless up and down these soulless corridors as if looking for an answer that somehow evades them in the windows. Their parents saunter through the same malls indulging in a dose of “reality therapy.” Disneyland, cruise vacations, extreme sports, drugs, and the like are consumable experiences.

I believe there is a desire for “something more” but we fall short, we are searching in the wrong places. The spiritual highs we get when we buy things doesn’t last and leaves us empty inside, we search for fulfilment yet end up lost in a sea of voices.

The desire in a consumer society is convenience, safety, and security. We want heaven conveniently packaged to reach our felt needs and wants and desires. Yet what looks so good really is what enslaves us and makes us fall short of the original purpose that God made us to live. By following these desires and these feelings we become enslaved – you can see it at present – people go in debt to own a house they cannot afford, people buy gadget upon gadget, cd upon cd, to keep up with the Jones’ so that they can be accepted. But it doesn’t work.

So how does consumerism infect the Christian community why do I think it is such a large issue
I will hit this on a number ways.
1. It is one of the major conditions of the attractional mode of church.
2. It impedes discipleship
3. Because it impedes discipleship it impedes our ability to be truly missional.
4. Because it is so enslaving we have to identify it and tackle it head on and do spiritual surgery in our own life.
As I write this I feel convicted of this myself, I struggle with the tensions in this world and struggle with my desire to buy and acquire more stuff to fulfil my felt needs. I am living in this tension and still figuring my way through it, struggling and wrestling to break the chains and lies that come from the messages of the culture around me.