DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I am not buying it…

Written by: on February 7, 2018

Numerous books have been assigned for us to read up to this point, but Vincent J. Miller’s book, “Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture” is finally one that I can “buy” into. Sorry, I had to say it. I am sure as ministers and church leaders, we all have a myriad of problems that we see arising in our churches; however, I truly believe that money has always been one…not the greatest…but definitely one of the greatest, obstacles the church has worked to overcome. I was deep in the pages of Consuming Religion, constantly comparing in my mind the different attitudes between the woman who gave her last mite and Ananias and Sapphira who held back at the last second because the lure of the money took hold. I also kept thinking about the couple from church that came in one day and shared their excitement over winning $1000 dollars at the car race track (mind you, this was the same couple that the church had recently helped numerous times with finances recently up to that point), and they were so excited to give $100 back to God out of their winnings; which was awesome…that is, until they revealed to me that they donated $300 back to the track to help them remodel. Sadly, they did not understand the lesson that could…no, should have been learned there. The reality is that even the church cannot deny living in a material world…a point the author makes so vehemently throughout this entire text.

Miller does an excellent job of shining light about the obstacles that have been erected as a means of building this concept of consumerism as a barrier that has risen within Christian-based communities. From war to women entering to the workplace to materialism in general, there seems to be a distinct line of cause and effect scenarios for building to this point. “As the twentieth century opened, he writes, print advertisements shifted from being primarily textual to include more illustrations. This shift served to support sometimes outlandish promises that often played more to the emotions than to common sense.”[1] One of the foundation principles was commodification; “an account of decline and loss.”[2] There were times when I could see this as a financial situation, or rather a world-view; however, at other times it seemed to a prevalent status within the decline of church involvement and financial interaction. Churches are dying because people love money…a cautionary thing to do according to scripture. It is worse than that though, in that they seem to trust money as the only real answer they see to fulfilling their happiness. When God is not the supplier of our perceived needs, then we remove the support to His church, and we fund our lives under different promises. Currently in my own congregation, though we are active with mission work and other ministries, we currently have more money set aside for building modification than our ministries…and sadly, it is almost a necessary thing to do because people judge a church by the paint on their walls rather than the sermons that are preached.

“Miller argues that religion and religious artifacts have become items that function in the marketplace.”[3] Though we have seen historically that even the church is responsible for placing too much emphasis on maintaining items and giving them value; for primary example all of the professed artifacts used to lure soldiers during the crusades. Materialism has flared its nasty face and the world loves it. Luis Oviedo does point out there though there is a great problem facing the church here, Miller gives areas of optimistic hope; “The book concludes with a more prescriptive chapter; a proposal of strategies to cope with the challenges described.”[4] There are numerous books that see problems in ministry yet, many fail to see the potential for improvement; I believe Miller still believes this is a possible fix; I am not sure I share his optimism. I often preach that the world…and the church is included in this…has a “heart-condition.” We fail to trust God like we should, and that trust therefore gets placed in terrible things. Though we see those shimmering rays of hope when someone obeys the Gospel, sadly there seems to be more leaving the church because of its “limitations” than joining the church because they desire a home in Heaven.

Miller presented the concept of the “cafeteria mentality”[5] of religion. I was raised to believe that God supplied all of our NEEDS. However, today if people do not find everything they “WANT”, then they just move down the road to another church. This “supply and demand Christianity” has forced churches to either conform to the desires of congregation’s wants, or they risk closing their doors for good. As a result, we have started to see this surge of homogenized, non-bible based, completely accommodating churches that spend more time pleasing man than they spend pleasing God. I would love to see this problem fixed, but the church is going to have to rebuild their desire to return to God and deny their false gods of money.

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Miller, Vincent J. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.

Oviedo, Lluis. Consuming Religion Review. n.d. http://catholicbooksreview.org/2004/miller.htm (accessed January 27, 2018).

Wilder, Courtney. “Vincent J Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture.” The Journal of Religion, October 2005: 681-682.

Zagano, Phyllis. “Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (Review).” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, 2005: 119-122.

 

[1] Zagano, Phyllis. “Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (Review).” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, 2005: P 119-122.

[2] Miller, Vincent J. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. P 113.

 

[3] Wilder, Courtney. “Vincent J Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture.” The Journal of Religion, October 2005: 681-682.

 

[4] Oviedo, Lluis. Consuming Religion Review. n.d. http://catholicbooksreview.org/2004/miller.htm (accessed January 27, 2018).

 

[5] Miller, Vincent J. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005. P 83.

About the Author

Shawn Hart

5 responses to “I am not buying it…”

  1. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Shawn great job. Wow, what a story about the race tracks. How irresponsible. Bad Stewardship. It is a shame with the American Church how much money actually goes to the poor. So much is invested back into internal things. Necessary? I suppose. Perhaps our nice buildings are what is needed to reach a culture hypnotized by shiny things.

    I think we all see Tamatoa’s song as rather prophetic for our American Culture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93lrosBEW-Q

  2. Great post Shawn, and interesting story about the gambling couple 🙂 I agree that the cafeteria mentality in churchgoers can be very consumeristic and create lots of pew sitters, but I also think we benefit from the vast variety of churches offered in order to connect with people’s preferences or styles. I also think we need more churches that support couples who function in an egalitarian model at home so that they can be supported and reinforced at church.

  3. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,

    The chaplain in me had to search for raceway ministries after reading your testimony from your race-betting congregants. Here are a few I found: http://www.finishtherace.org/; http://www.go2mro.com/; http://www.motorsportsministries.com/; http://www.racewayministries.com/

    Good job analyzing Miller’s work. You pulled 2 of the same reviews that I did. Overall, Miller is like you and says we need to “fight back” against the problem of commodified religion. However, fighting back does not mean the battle will be won, or even changed, but nevertheless we must “stand firm” against religious consumerism, which is clearly another scheme of the devil.

    So, please do not be so hard on yourself or your church. God knows the heart and mind of his pastors and their congregations. Even in this new consumeristic type of religious commodity surfing, I still see God working. Gosh, how much better do we have it than the Reformation era Christians?

    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  4. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Shawn,

    Well said in this, “I was raised to believe that God supplied all of our NEEDS. However, today if people do not find everything they “WANT”, then they just move down the road to another church.”

    And somehow when our “wants” get provided, we call that a blessing and prosperity? We are pretty whacked out, and seem to be looking for love in all the wrong places (to quote a song)…

  5. Greg says:

    Shawn.
    I can hear your pastor’s heart when you see what your people should do and find them not rising up to meet that expectation. I would imagine that God has the same thoughts about us each and every day. I wonder sometimes if people give to other projects because they are not always aware of the needs that the church has…or in your story maybe they just can’t handle money well.

    Even as a believer (and westerner) it is easy to see God as the great vending machine in the sky (cafeteria mentality). We have such short attention sp….what was I saying 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts.

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