Why did you become a Christian? What do you say to others to convince them to give their hearts to Christ?
Take a look at most Christian websites and you will find a myriad of promises as to how you can have a better life as a Christian. A better marriage, a better health, a better bank balance etc – the list is endless, and produces a never ending supply of “better” techniques and experiences to attain the better life.
Many think that the greatest ideological threat to the Church in the 21st Century Western World is not atheism, communism, Islam or even false doctrines promoted by those who want to discard the biblical faith. Rather it is the worldview of consumerism. In this worldview the self is lord.
This worldview sees life in terms of shopping: life should present me with the greatest number of goods and services for the least amount of expense possible. This worldview has invaded the Christian mind. It afflicts conservative/evangelicals and liberals alike.
Jesus Christ challenges this worldview. He says real life is about denying one’s self. Being a Christian means we stop living like we own ourselves and we give up ourselves to Jesus Christ.
But this Biblical Christianity is threatened by Consumer Christianity.
Bible teacher Dan Jenkins says that:
Consumer [Christianity] is a mentality which is self-centred. One who is a consumer is concerned with the benefits to himself or herself of whatever they buy or believe. Therefore, for the consumer to become interested in the product or service or belief system, it must appeal to their personal interests, concerns, and opinions. … Consumerism is a mentality of control. Consumers only invest in something we can continue to control. We want to see results and monuments to our investment! …The consumer always dictates the qualities and terms of the product or service they will purchase or support! The demand is for benefits which affirm personal preferences and opinion. In other words, it is hinged in feelings, not Truth! This form of Christianity is [idolatrous] and unbiblical. (From Dan Jenkins, Gospel Consumers or Doers,)
Let’s look at another analogy: In our society McDonald’s has become the epitome of the consumer experience. The successful fast food chain has learned that to appeal to consumers you have to offer lots of menu choices designed to please many different tastes and appetites. It can’t cost too much. You don’t want to entangle the customer with any intimacy or relationships – they don’t have to form a relationship with a server, just step up to the counter, order and walk away.
Now, in order to retain parishioners, the Church is becoming “McDonald-ized”. We try to offer what McDonalds does:
• Lot’s of menu choices designed to please our appetites and personal tastes. Give the people what they want.
• Hold down the price of commitment in time and money.
• The tendency to avoid intimacy. That’s why many people love the mega-church environment where they can be anonymous consumers. You never have to get to know anyone!
That’s the kind of Christianity that most people want today: McChristianity. We are a nation of McChristians! The Western Church is dying of its addiction to spiritual fast food.
God is longing to wean us off of such junk food. Persecution and suffering may well break into our world view taking us back to the original ethos of the early church. A longing for a better life may be tempered by the desire for…“a better resurrection.”
“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.” Hebrews 11:33
It may be that we are in need of a paradigm shift in the Western world to take us back to the true sacrificial meaning of what being a Christian is all about. Of course our lives are “better” in Christ as we embrace all the benefits of forgiveness and redemption, but the echoes of a deeper glory are being heard as the churches of the “global south” join us in our march towards world evangelization. Some of our Chinese, Indonesian, Sudanese and Ethiopian brothers and sisters bring with them a “joyous ruggedness” – an experience and acceptance of the cross, its cost and its hardships, which may redeem us from the sad selfishness of consumer Christianity.
As I personally have been contemplating the cost of a “better resurrection” paradigm, and listening to the tragic yet glorious testimony of persecuted brethren around the world I’ve found comfort in the words of Lady Julian of Norwich. She describes seeing God holding a tiny thing in his hand, like a small brown nut, which seemed so fragile and insignificant that she wondered why it did not crumble before her eyes. She understood that the thing was the entire created universe, which is as nothing compared to its Creator, and she was told,
A matter that greatly troubled her was the fate of those who through no fault of their own had never heard the Gospel. She never received a direct answer to her questions about them, except to be told that whatever God does is done in Love, and therefore,
“that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”