I recently had the opportunity to attend a great conference called 'Sentralized' in Olathe, KS a few weeks back that focused what it looks like for the Church to be a missional people. There were several speakers at the conference that I learned a great deal from. One of the main speakers, Michael Frost, challenged people to 'listen to the heartbeat of your city' in order to find out how to be the hands and feet of Christ to them. He went on to say that we must really know the inhabitants of our community in order to effectively minister to them and we must listen to their cries.
Here is my issue. I understand what Michael Frost was getting at. I understand the necessity of having listening ears and sensitive hearts in order to properly and effectively do the work of the Kingdom in our communities. You don't start an 'Obesity Recovery Club' in a village that is full of people who are starving nor do you offer English speaking classes for Japanese people in a town that is 70% Caucasian and 30% Spanish. Listening with a prayerful heart is essential.
But what if the greatest desires, wants, and 'needs' of my community is a flat-screen to replace their 'old tv' from 2005? What if what people desire most is a better car than the one they already have now? A job that pays better so they can afford to go out to eat more and to support an excessive lifestyle? Someone to repave their driveway so it looks as good as they neighbors new driveway across the street?
I hope my point is coming across. What does ministry look like to a community and a people (adults and youth alike) whose greatest desire is to get more and have more than what they already have? What does ministry look like to those who have been fully baptized into a lifestyle of consumption, comfort, and getting everything we want?
Before I go on, I thank God that I was not struck dead as I typed those last words. I see the signs of consumerism in my own heart on a daily basis and I must bring that before the Lord in repentance regularly. I do not write as one who has 'arrived' but as one who sees the the stains of consumption in my own heart and life.
Alan Hirsch makes a great point in his book 'The Forgotten Ways' by saying the greatest obstacle in the Western Church when it comes to following Jesus is not Islam, Eastern Religions, New Age Spirituality, or whatnot. Instead, the greatest obstacle is consumerism: the belief and desire that life is all about doing me and getting mine. Consumerism preaches instant gratification and immediate results whereas the way of Jesus is found in pouring one's life out in servant love to one's brother and sister. It is in the daily surrendering of one's own selfishness and asking God to renew our hearts to look more like that of our Lords. It is the complete opposite of the consumer mindset. The text that continually comes to mind is the descent of our Lord spoken of in Philippians 2. We serve one who being in the very nature God made himself nothing (2:5-11). When God's people embrace the way of Jesus and the way of the servant, we begin to loosen the entangling strands of consumerism upon our lives.
So, what does ministry look like to those who have become entrapped in the ideology of consumerism?
Jason McPherson is an Associate/Youth Pastor in Independence, Missouri. Originally from Nashua, NH, he is a diehard Red Sox fan and has since also grown a liking for the Royals as well. Along with his love for the BoSox, Jason enjoys all things active, including disc golf, ultimate frisbee, biking, and whiffle ball. Jason received his M.Divinity from Nazarene Theological Seminary in 2009. He has been married to his wife Rachel, a fellow New England native, for four years. The two have one child, ‘Dunkin’, who is a 6lb long haired Chihuahua. You can read more of his thoughts on his personal blog here.