Saturday, June 01, 2019

Consumer Churches Replace the Jesus Way

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(9-1-1- memorial, New York City)

The gentle, bearded, late pastor-scholar Eugene Peterson called consumer churches "antichrist churches." For the following reasons.

  • The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal. The ways our North American culture uses are impersonal. 
  • In churches today the vocabulary of numbers is preferred over names. A “number” is an impersonal abstract object; a person is a flesh-blood-and-spirit-being created in God’s image. 
  • The Real Jesus is an alternative to the dominant ways of the world, not a supplement to them; e.g., not to make us happy and meet our individual needs (like "I need a parking space"). 
  • The Consumer Church replaces the Jesus way with the American way. The American consumer mentality runs so deep that many churches unreflectively replicate it. The implicit, unconscious reasoning is this: In America we are the world’s champion consumers, so why shouldn’t we have state-of-the-art consumer churches? This is the best and most effective way for gathering large and prosperous congregations. 
  • We can’t gather a God-fearing, God-worshiping congregation by cultivating a consumer-pleasing, commodity-oriented congregation. 
  • American Christianity is known for going along with whatever culture decides is charismatic, successful, influential - whatever gets things done, whatever can gather a crowd of followers - hardly noticing that these ways and means are at odds with the clearly marked way that Jesus walked and called us to follow. American churches are largely dictated to by American culture. Here is where “relevant” becomes a bad idea. 

Peterson concludes: “The ways and means promoted and practiced in the world are a systematic attempt to substitute human sovereignty for God’s rule. The world as such has no interest in following the crucified King.”

- From my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.