I have been for a while reflecting on how we do Church and mission. This reflection has opened my eyes to some sad truths about how we do Church. The issue of consumerism has permeated every fabric of society that the Church is not left alone. This means instead of our Churches becoming a counter-cultural spaces modelling alternative ways of being and living, rather than consuming, we are not different to people in society.
So then, how has the consumer culture affected the way we do Church? In the case of some Churches (in this case White Majority Churches), it is the understanding of the congregation thinking that the Church is like a social club where our spiritual, pastoral and social needs are met. Now let me clarify that all the above needs are important and the Church is surely there to help people, but if this is all we reduce the Church to, then we have to rethink how we do Church. Church shouldnt just be a place where we recieve, it should also be a place where we take responsibility to give to others. At the heart of this understanding is discipleship which shifts energy and attention away from just ourselves to others. But it appears that our Churches at times is still full of people that are very selfish and just want things to be done their own way. I have heard people even complained about worship and say things such as, “I did not enjoy that time of worship” “That worship session was not for me” “The worship session was self indulgent” You get the picture? At the end of the day worship should not be about us but about God. I fear that we have reduce our Churches to our comfort zones and have become rather insensitive to the needs of people outside our Churches. If all our energy is foucsed inwards, on how we do Church for ourselves, how can we have the time and strength to look outward? In essence, how can we be very effective in terms of mission?
Another way I think the consumer culture has affected us is that it appears people do not want to hear talks that will challenge their lives and lifestyle. It seems to me that we have become too nice to speak the truth to challenge people. How are we meant to be truly disciples if all we hear is that God loves us? Yes God loves us but part of that love requires us to be selfless and not selfish. Other ways consumerism has affected the Church is through prosperity Gospel that some Churches are articulating. I have written in other posts and articles about the reasons why some preachers preach prosperity therefore I will not discuss that here. But it saddens me to see that rather than prosperity gospel being used to help the community it has been consumed just on individuals and have caused peolple to be greedy. It appears that some of our Black Majority Churches have become a place to show case our latest cars and designer wears to the extent that working class black people struggle to come to our Churches because they will not fit in. Surely this is not the Gospel.
I think it is time for our Churches both black and white to go back to understanding what Jesus defines as a disciple, that is, someone who is ready to deny him or herself daily so as to carry the cross. This will mean living not just for ourselves but for others and more importantly for the mission of God (Missio Dei). If the Church in Britain is going to live true to what one of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, said, “The Church is the only organisation that exists for the wellbeing and fraternity of its non-members” Then we have to take the issue of discipleship very seriously or else the Church will just live for the benefits of its members.