Consuming Church


We live in a Western consumeristic world.

This is something I’ve written about before, but it’s still true. And, what matters most isn’t to lament this, but rather to recognize it and “call it out” when we see it. Because, what can (and does) subtly happen is that this Western consumeristic world starts to infect and affect the church.

One way that often happens is through this idea of the church “providing religious experiences” for people. That the goal of coming to church is to have “an experience” in which people encounter God. And, on the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with this. Because, in many ways, that is what I hope happens during our weekend services.

But, when you peel back the layers, you can see how quickly that goes off course. Because, the church doesn’t exist so you can have “an experience.” Church isn’t about you in the first place, and it’s not about me either.

Church is about Jesus calling us to be faithful in His mission in the world.

But, it quickly slides into consumerism when we show up to “experience something” and then rate our experience based on what we were offered, rather than what we brought to it. We talk about what we receive, rather than what expectations and openness we brought with us.

I write all this because it is subtle and dangerous.

And, I know it’s me. I’m more likely to enjoy something that makes me feel good, rather than something that invites me into the hard process of being an apprentice of Jesus.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

Now, I’m not bemoaning the current state of Christianity. Instead, I’m bemoaning the state of my own soul. Because, I’m shaped by this culture, just like everyone else. And, because of this, I’m tempted to ask, “How was church this week?” – as if I’m somehow outside of it, divorced from it and a spectator, rather than part of it.

Instead, I should be asking different questions, such as:

. “How was I a part of church?” 
. “Did I give, participate and open myself up to being found by Jesus?”

Different questions, but question that I think matter.

Because, it’s so easy to seek a little religious, uplifting experiencing, rather than choose the long road, pursuing holiness in an apprenticeship to Jesus.

So, this post isn’t to “call out” anything else other than to remind us that the temptation to consume church is always there, and it needs to be recognized and, most of all, resisted.

The Meaning of Christmas

christmas-bulbs-1258956-639x750On Sunday we are looking at what the meaning of Christmas is. And while I think at first glance that seems pretty clear – it’s about Jesus. I’m not so sure we know how that actually applies to what we live, and what we do.

Lots of Christians around Christmas debate how the meaning of Christmas is Jesus. For some this means fighting consumerism, for others it means being able to say “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”, or there are lots of other debates going on.

So while every Christian would agree, that Christmas is about Jesus, what that practically and actually means is quite different depending on what Christian you talk with.

So that’s what I want to clear up on Sunday. I want to clear up what Christmas being about Jesus really means practically for our lives. What we should positively be doing if that statement is true. And it’s something simple, it’s something practical, and like the best simple and practical things – it’s absolutely transformational.

The Problem of the Coolness and Manufacturing of Missional

Found at:
Found at:

Here is a problem I’ve noticed. It’s cool to be “missional”. You might not know the term, but trust me it’s the new “cool term”. Just look at how many books are on the topic. Just look at how many Christian workshops there are about it. Just look at how often people talk about it…or blog about it (yes I know I’m blogging about it and have many times before).

Now I’m not against the missional movement at all. I’ve led workshops on it, I’ve created resources for it, and I wrote my thesis on it. What I’m worried is that we tend to “consume missional-ness” rather than practicing being missional. So we go to trainings, read books, buy more books, go to another training, and leave our “old churches” to do something cool and new. And in the end rather than being missional, we end up being consumeristic and “consuming mission”.

Jason Clark puts it this way:

“This is how we consume church. We read book on missional church, attend missional events, leave existing churches to be revolutionary, and at the end of the day we end up ‘consuming’ mission rather than doing the dirty work of bringing about a concrete church and mission”.

And the truth is it’s easier to consume church, rather than truly being missional and committing to a location for a long-term. It’s easier to read a book, go to a training, and start something new rather than investing, planting yourself, and saying, “God use me here.”

I am in no way against new things, or the church moving into the community. This needs to happen. I just want to make sure the motives are right for why it’s happening. Because the truth is this: it’s too easy to jump to the new cool thing, it’s hard to do the faithful thing. And I believe being faithful to God means being missional. It’s just that it’s so easy to try to “be missional” not from a desire of faithfulness, but a desire of rejection and consumerism.

I think Jason Clark’s question is a good one for all of us to think about, “are we ‘consuming mission’ rather than doing the dirty work of bringing about a concrete church and mission”

  • Are we responding faithfully to God’s call to move out into the neighborhood, or just tired of the neighborhood we find ourselves in?
  • Are we launching something new because God is calling us to, or because we’re just bored and frustrated with our current place?
  • Are we learning about being missional to practice it, or to critique others who aren’t doing it?

I just think Jason Clarke’s point is wise. Are we consuming mission, or living out God’s mission? Because especially in being missional, motives matter.

Technology’s Good and Evils and the Tower of Babel

towerofbabelOn Sunday we explored a piece of underrated and life changing piece of technology: the brick. We explored how the story of Babel found in Genesis 11 isn’t just about God scattering but God’s response to technology and how it shapes us.

So what we discovered is that the people were moving eastward. Yet the people began to settle. In essence they began to move away from their nomadic roots. And with their “rootedness” they began to create something of permanence that wasn’t a possibility before. They wanted to create a Tower. Yet the only reason this becomes a possibility is through technological innovation: the creation of a brick. Bricks are uniform, they are mass-producible, and functional. They open up the ability to building projects never even dreamed of before.

Yet we read of the motives behind their building project. It says this in Genesis 11:4-5 ““Let’s build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies – a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world”. Here we get a glimpse how technology can shape us. It can influence us to create monuments to our own greatness. There is nothing wrong with creation, creativity, and innovation (in fact God commands it in Genesis 1-3). What is wrong though is creating out of a desire to prove our own greatness rather than a response to God’s goodness.

Technology has a tendency to infect and increase our pride. Look at how people strive for the better car, phone, house, or cool gadget so that they feel secure. These are the same emotions and insecurities that drove people thousands of years ago to make the Tower of Babel. We desire our own permanency, and monuments to our greatness but the message of the text is that in chasing after those things we end up scattered and alone. This is true in our day and age today.

The second danger is technology can distract us from God’s calling. Up until this point in the narrative the calling has been to move, and fill the earth. Now though people are settling and creating monuments to their greatness. And I think while our times are different technology still today separates us from God’s calling. There is nothing wrong with technology, but currently the average American watches over 32 hours of TV a week. There is nothing wrong with TV but is it possible that it is stealing our effectiveness from God? The average Canadian has over $27,000 in consumer debt. Is it possible that our addiction to stuff is stopping us, as part of the wealthiest people on the planet, from being a part of blessing others?

The last danger of technology was found in its ability to create a lack of listening. A faithful rendering of Genesis 11:7 is as follows: “Come let us go down and give them different languages. That way they won’t be able to listen to one another” I think this is what technology can do. It can stop us from truly listening to one another. We can forget to engage in conversations, and check our phones. We can forget to talk with our spouses, and turn on the TV.

So on Sunday the point wasn’t the evil of technology. The point was to recognize that it is shaping our lives for good or bad. And some of the negative ways is that it causes us to become prideful, resistant to God, and forget to listen to each other. So I gave a challenge to the church – give up technology as best you can this week. Put away the phone, the tablet, and the TV and give that time to God and those significant relationships in your life. Through this you might realize you don’t need it quite as much as you think, and find your life fuller. So with that said – my blog posts might not be as frequent this week 😉

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Technology shapes us for good and bad

Take Aways…

  • Technology shapes our lives
  • Technology allows new possibilities
  • Technology has the tendency to separate and confuse our relationship with God and each other.
  • We create technology as monuments to our greatness
  • Technology can increase our sense of ownership
  • Technology in this story breeds resistance and distance from God
  • The 4 dangers of technology in this story are:
    • + Pride
    • + Sense of Personal Ownership of Communal Items
    • + Resistance to God
    • + We stop listening

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? Have you ever though of a brick as technology before? Have you ever been caught up in “getting stuff” as a monument to yourself? Which of the four dangers of technology do you think you struggle with most? Which is the most dangerous for you? How much does technology shape your life? How easy will it be for you to give up for a week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Share with your kids the good things about technology, but also some of the difficult things. Talk about how we can get prideful in what we have, we can stop listening to one another, and we can stop being together. Tell them you are going to try putting away technology for the week and to be together. Maybe buy a new board game, go for walks, go to the park, paint, create, and share time together

Challenge for this Week: Give up technology for a week, as best you can.