We live in a culture which tells us that we have the burden of inventing our own identity. It turns out, this is not remotely easy. So when we struggle, consumer brands are all too happy to step in and do this for us.
The consumer culture teaches us to get the best product for the least cost, hence the slogan of the Target Corporation, “Expect more, pay less.”
The consumer culture deeply affects how we look at the church, faith, and spirituality.
Dr Scott Hagley is assistant professor of missiology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Scott was a pastor of a large, multi-site church. He also worked for Forge Canada, which develops leaders and churches to transform their neighborhoods. Last spring I heard Scott’s lecture, “Consumed: faithful Christian practice in a consumer age.”
Scott says that Christians have always borrowed practices from the world around them. For example, many of the hymns we sing come from a different time and place. This isn’t necessarily bad. The problem comes when we adopt other forms without reflecting on what we’re doing.
Which brings us to our current condition.
The practice of buying and selling, of getting the best product for the least cost, has deeply affected how we look at the church. We go “church shopping” the way we shop for anything else. We want a church that “works for me.” If we’re not getting what we want at one church, we move to the next. And so we bring a transactional mentality to God. If “I do this” then “God will do that” for me.
The thing is, this has nothing to do with how God is formed in us. The life God gives us is pure gift from a creator who is infinitely powerful and wise and loving. We have nothing God needs. The process of God being formed in us is long and messy and it’s out of our control.
“Expect more, pay less,” means nothing to God. What God wants to do with us is way, way, way more than we expect.