Now I understand Matt’s enthusiasm for Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. (Check out this post and this post that Matt wrote.) I may try to write a more organized review later, but for now I just need to tell you to go out and get this book if you haven’t already read it.
Sometimes you read something that you just need to go ahead and post. Hirsch’s thoughts about the threat consumerism poses to Christianity is one of those things:
- “I have come to believe that the major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism” (106).
- “Christianity has become a mere matter of private preference rather than that of public truth” (108).
- “This is our missional context, and I’ve come to believe that in dealing with consumerism we are dealing with an exceedingly powerful enemy propagated by a very sophisticated media machine. This is our situation, but it is also our own personal condition – and it must be dealt with if we are going to be effective in the twenty-first century in the West” (109).
- “I found out the hard way that if we don’t disciple people, the culture sure will” (111).
This section just hit me pretty hard. Consumerism has become so much a part of our culture, even within the church, that we often don’t even recognize it. Hirsch encourages the Church to remember that “discipleship is all about adherence to Christ” (106). And that should impact everything we do, and how we do it.
Finally, please know that this is not the essence of this book. There is so much more, this is just something that really hit me as I was reading it and wanted to put it out there.
So, what are your thoughts? Is consumerism the major threat to American Christianity? Is Hirsch overreacting?
good observations Kevin. I don’t think Hirsch is over-reacting. I think consumerism is the Roman Empire that the church in our culture contends with. I found that the power of this “Empire” resonated very strongly with young people when I was the program coordinator for the chaplain’s office at Occidental College in Los Angeles (the Rome of this Empire?). I started a discussion group called “Spirituality in the Age of Consumerism,” (taken from a book by my mentor Jay McDaniel) and it attracted many young people who would have never darkened the door of the campus chapel, but this issue in particular spoke to them. (They were of diverse faith groups, but all felt the pinch of consumerism inhibiting their progression or wooing them to distraction.)
I’m with you on this. It’s a good book (as is Shpaing of Things to Come) and consumerism and comfort may be far worse on the church than persecution.
Kevin Watson said:
Nathan – Thanks for the comments, sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I appreciate your insight. The group you started sounds very interesting and speaks to the deep tension between faith and consumption.
Nathan – I have added Shaping of Things to Come to my wish list and hope to get to it before too long. From what I have read so far, I think Hirsch would certainly agree with you that consumerism and comfort are far worse on the church than persecution (see: early Church, Church in China). Thanks for stopping by.
brad brisco said:
I loved this book. No I do not believe Hirsch is over-reacting. We have attracted crowds of people through consumerist means and then we wonder why people don’t want to live outwardly focused lives. I too would highly recommend “Shaping” and Frost’s “Exiles” as well.
Kevin Watson said:
brad – thanks for stopping by. i actually just ordered “Shaping” and am currently reading “Exiles” which is excellent.
i just checked out your blog, it looks awesome. i am looking forward to following it in the future.