Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

An Alternative Perspective on Consuming Religion

Written by: on April 24, 2023

Vincent J. Miller depicts the commodification of religion in his book Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. In a blog review of this book, pastor W. David O. Taylor writes, “The short version of his thesis is this: the problem with a so-called consumer culture does not, ultimately, lie at the level of beliefs. It lies at the level of practices and behaviors.”[1] He further details, “The problem for Miller does not lie at the level of beliefs. It lies at the level of practices.”[2]

There are many valid arguments about why the commodification of religion is a negative thing, but I wonder if there are any positive aspects of this trend. To pursue this train of thought, I will turn firstly to author and media expert Phil Cooke’s book, Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media and author Craig Detweiler’s book, iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives.

Phil Cooke: Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media

I had the privilege of taking a course with Phil Cooke in grad school entitled, “Using Social Media to Reach Your Community.” I enjoyed this class and Dr. Cooke’s approach to social media. In his book, Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media, Dr. Phil Cooke addresses issues critical to ministry in the twenty-first century. “Branding is identity. Even in a nuclear age, there isn’t a more powerful force on earth.”[3]What do these images say to you? Do you recognize them? Do they evoke a feeling or emotion?

My guess is that you instantly recognized four out of the five of these images. Did you look at the last image and wonder? You probably did not recognize it because it is the new logo for my church. It is not widely known like the other four logos. With thousands of choices, ministries with no unique identity get overlooked no matter how great a message they have to share. I would argue that this aspect of commodification is essential in a society focused on image and branding.


Craig Detweiler: iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives

We cannot ignore technology and wish it away. Short of a global electromagnetic pulse like in 1996 movie Escape from LA, technology is here to stay.

We cannot live in the past. Christ calls us to live in the present and look to the future. As Craig Detweiler writes in iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives, “Resenting a new technology will not halt its progress.”[4] The Roman Roads of the first century aided in the dissemination of the gospel. The invention of the movable type printing press enabled the Protestant Reformation. The use of technology has played an integral part in the advancement of the gospel and will continue to do so in the future.


Embracing some aspects of consumerism is a means of advancing the gospel. Will it work in every situation and every place? Of course not. What works to make disciples in Southern California is not the same as what works in the Bible Belt or in another country. We have learned as much through our study of cultural mapping. But aspects of consumerism such as the use of social media, technology, and branding provides endless opportunity. It all depends on how we use it. I will leave you with this quote by Detweiler:

“Our relationship with technology alters our understanding of our world and of God. What we believe is shaped by the technologies that surround us. I want us to consider the nature of technology itself—is it a lifesaving gift a la Noah’s Ark or a form of folly like the tower of Babel? The short answer is “yes.”[5]

[1] W. David. O. Taylor, “Review of Vincent Miller’s *Consuming Religion*” Diary of an Arts Pastor (blog), March 10, 2010 http://artspastor.blogspot.comp/2010/03/review-of-vincent-millers-consuming.html.

[2] Taylor.

[3] Phil Cooke, Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media. (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2012), pg. 36.

[4] Craig Detweiler, iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2013), Introduction, eBooks.

[5] Detweiler, eBooks.

About the Author


Becca Hald

Becca is an ordained Foursquare minister, serving as the Online Community Pastor at Shepherd's House Church. She has over twenty-five years of leadership experience both inside and outside the church. Becca has served her community in many capacities ranging from Administrative Assistant and Children’s Ministry Director to Secretary and President of multiple school organizations. She and her husband, Andrew have been married for over 25 years. They have two adult children, Drew and Evelyn. Her great passion is to equip others, to raise awareness about mental health, and to help reduce the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues. In her free time, she loves going to Disneyland, reading, sewing, and making cards.

4 responses to “An Alternative Perspective on Consuming Religion”

  1. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Hi Becca
    Thank you for offering a different perspective. It is often easier to offer a critique and far more challenging to look at the positives.
    I agree that consumerism and technology are here and will continue to change as does how the gospel is communicated in each culture.
    What I love about brands is that they offer a sense of belonging. I believe that is one of the core desires of every person. I think many if not all of our churches are offering a brand while few are doing it intentionally.
    I like the quote you shared because I think practicing the faith is the delineation between a transformative experience. Have you noticed or are you drawn to certain practices that make faith counter-cultural and life-giving for you?

    • mm Becca Hald says:

      Thank you Chad. I agree with you about brands. Look at all the specialized groups on Social Media. As for countercultural practices of faith, I am a strong believer in tithing and giving. My husband and I have a saying about giving, “You can never out give God, but we are sure going to try.” We do not limit our giving to tithing. It is a lifestyle of living with open hands, knowing that everything we have is the blessing of God and we are just His stewards.

  2. Becca, I need you to educate me on how to insert images into the blog. I love your visual approach to blowing as well as the words and wisdom you share. Embracing technology is important. I was reflecting and thought this relates to the conversation of “being in the world” when we do ministry. Sometimes we need to speak the language in order to to understand the needs and communicate effectively. Lots of food for thought.

    • mm Becca Hald says:

      Sara, we should sit down in Oxford and do a tutorial! Yes, it is important to “speak the language in order to to understand the needs and communicate effectively.” When you can speak someone’s language, they feel seen and heard. That is loving people.

Leave a Reply