…where atleast I know I can buy, whatever I want, when I want it, and nobody can stop me.
There are few lasting images in my mind like that of September 11, 2001 and the days that followed. I remember where I was when I found out the World Trade Center had been attacked. I remember sitting and praying with a team of missionaries in my home for the families, the world, and our country. I remember looking at my son who was a few months old thinking what was his life going to be like?
Then it happened, the President of the United States finally spoke. He told us that the terrorists would not win. He told us that we can stand up to these people and fight! He told us to do that we must…we must…GO SHOPPING! Fill the malls and buy stuff, show them that they can’t take away your lives!
In that moment, I thought, “Yes! That’s right we must go on.” Upon nearly a decade of reflection I am becoming more and more distressed by this statement. What distresses me is the fact that it is emblematic of the broken culture within which we live in the West. We are fundamentally consumers. To go shopping and buy whatever we want is our highest freedom. It is what drives us.
Missional discipleship necessarily conflicts with this. Consider this passage from Jesus’ teaching,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
(Matthew 5:3–11 ESV)
This is not the teaching of a consumerist. This is the teaching of a man who would end up being crucified in any era, any time, and any place. Missional discipleship requires us to take a hard look at the culture around us and begin to understand how WE are being manipulated by a broken world.
So many who call themselves “Christian” are more interested in the spiritual wares that a church is offering than serving in the church. “Churches” become a clearing house for a shallow spirituality that is designed to attract and lure as opposed to forming the followers of Jesus spiritually. They become analogous to the the fishing lure. It is pretty and attractive and the fish can’t help but take a bite in doing so it finds itself hooked without substance.
Eugene Peterson in “Tell it Slant” says that this approach is similar to narcotics. You can not live on narcotics yet it is all you want.
“If Christianity simply mirrors its culture, what is the point of its mission? (Untamed, 109)”
If we are serious about discipleship we must set aside the trappings of the consumerism that surrounds us and embrace the covenantal communitas of the living God.
Are you a consumer or a member of community?
Is it all about you or another?
Are you asking “what’s in it for me” or “what can I offer”?