Is consumerism killing your faith?
Choice is not enough
At the John Lewis distribution centre in the UK a robotic arm swoops down and picks out this year’s top selling game “Pie Face”, from a vast container containing the store’s 87,000 most popular products. As the robot drops Pie Face onto a conveyer belt human staff who can pack 55 items per hour take over. Meanwhile at the Amazon warehouse down the road a worker uses her sat-nav (GPS) to work out the quickest route from the Sony TVs to the shelf that stocks Bratz dolls.
… I was reading a newspaper article about transformations in shopping, and yes I’ve been shopping in the sales too. Most websites now will promise to deliver items ordered in the evening by next morning. This is what we demand. In surveys 96% of shoppers say they expect goods ordered online to arrive within 3 days. Amazon will already deliver within 1 hour in some locations, and you may even have seen the upcoming drones cutting delivery times to minutes.
“It must fit me” culture
The staggering efficiency with which ordered items are delivered has also sparked new trends like “shopping in your own home”. People order several items in the knowledge that at most they will purchase one – but it costs nothing to return unwanted items – so why not?
I remember as a child my mother telling me that UK high-street leader (in 1975!) Marks and Spencer would actually take back products just because they were unwanted. We thought THAT was revolutionary! But today our expectation is that everything, the product the delivery schedule, the service, the return service must ALL fit me. I must be able to order items with a “single click” system like PayPal. I should receive everything I might want the next day so I can return everything I don’t want at no cost to me.
These are new ways of thinking about shopping – which I am reliably informed is no longer a necessity but “an experience”. Bricks and clicks, gargantuan warehouses unconvincingly painted to look like the sky, 24 hour working practices, and astonishing technology – it’s all new.
But a question
Does this new consumerism impact the way we practise our faith?
If we are constantly fed the idea “everything must fit me”, how could it possibly not?
Consumerism comes to church
I recall my college principal Glen Marshall commenting: Consumerism isn’t just about going shopping in the mall. Consumerism is when I feed myself the idea that I have the right to choose …. everything. I can choose which school my kids go to, my house, my car, I choose every aspect of how I look, and of course I choose how I exercise my faith .. I choose a church where they play the songs I like, where they worship the way I want, where I only do what I choose, and where my kids are taught in the way I approve.
Accompanying the “it must fit me” culture, many of us also have an instant fix mentality. Give me something right now that will encourage me without me thinking too hard. Give me Spring Harvest standard worship right here so I can feel uplifted, even spontaneous, right now.
Of course it’s important that we are taught well in churches and that worshipping together is special – where somehow the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. The problem is that unchecked consumerism means we measure all things simply by how we like to consume them. Applied to church and faith we quickly measure and rate things on their ability to give us a quick and satisfying effect. And if they don’t deliver, well we have the ultimate sanction that we will leave and … shop around for a church that fits us better. Individual choice dictates everything.
Increasingly people choose churches not according to what can God do with me here but simply what can I get here. Worship becomes a leisure time activity where we receive but don’t expect to give, entertainment is a prerequisite, boredom is unacceptable.
But sometimes God might want us to be still, might want us to wait and that might even include for a time, “feeling bored”.
- In our prayer times it’s good sometimes just to acknowledge who God is and thank him for a multitude of blessings –save that list of requests for another time. Try it!
- In reading scripture, occasionally try reading a whole chunk in one go. And if you really want truth nailed to your heart, try memorizing verses.
- A living sacrifice: The question what can I give here? should also be a reason for attending any church as well as what can I receive here?
- Work out your salvation: We should always aim for impactful worship and teaching – but quick fixes and instant gratification must not be the focus.
Because you’re worth it
Apologies for the poor pun, but remember … God didn’t choose you for a quick fix or because it suited him that day. His plan to save you wasn’t picked because it had a 24 hour fulfilment promise … and he won’t change his mind and send you back tomorrow.
Chris Goswami is Director of Marketing for a Silicon Valley based company, Minister In Training in the UK Baptist Church and Blogger of the Year. His personal site is www.7minutes.net.