Consumerism and the Church


In 1981, my Dad took his first church in a small, real small, community in Kentucky.  We moved from our moderate middle-class home to a small church owned house that backed up to a creek fed by the Kentucky River.  I was in sixth grade and rather upset by the entire situation.  Over the next six years I attended 5 different schools.  Each move was precipitated by a disagreement between the church and Dad.  The people decided they no longer wanted him to be their leader and let him know it publicly.

Why does this happen?  Did the search team not believe God called him to the church?  Did Dad not fully believe God called him to the church?  If both believed God called them to each other, how could one side decide this on their own?

Wal-Mart began in the 1960’s with one store in Rogers, Arkansas.  By the 1980’s it had grown to national status.  With the rise of the “super center” that housed everything you could ever want under one roof, Generation X and, subsequently, Y grew up going to Wal-Mart.  I do not fault this company for growing in the way they did.  However, many small town businesses would argue that point.  The age of consumerism rose to new heights!  The baby boom and prosperity of the 50’s had nothing on this new group.  They had money to burn and the marketing developed to a younger crowd as children began to wield their consumer power within the home.

During this time, churches began to suffer from the culture making its way into the church.  The idea that one can go and receive everything under one roof for a cheaper price than competitors marked a significant change in why someone attended church.  Instead of going to serve God and others, the shift became attending to be served.  A new generation wanted to be served with everything and pay less, or nothing, for such benefits.  This trend would cause havoc for years to come.

Jesus told the people a parable on his way to Jerusalem.  The Parable of the Ten Minas recounts a nobleman who left for a time and promised his return.  He hands out equal money to 10 individuals and instructs them to do business with the money provided.  The interesting part of this parable is what happens next.  The citizens held a meeting and decided they did not want the nobleman to reign over them any longer.  What happens next is what I believe happens in a lot of churches today.

1.  Some ignore the report and go about their business.  In this parable, one of the 10 kept right on working.  It was as if he didn’t entertain this consumer notion of being able to change leadership on a whim.  He invested.  His money grew.  He was rewarded by the nobleman when he returned.  This man represents those who refuse to give in to the consumers who want something different every other minute.  For those who are resolute in their support and investment in the Kingdom of God and His people in leadership will be rewarded by God in the end.

2.  Some become confused. One of the guys only returned a little on the investment.  The same economy and same geography returned less on the investment.  We could dive into his work ethic or personality.  However, Jesus provides us with the reason.  The citizens for change tainted his attitude and ability.  The consumer mentality in churches can adversely affect the effectiveness of those in the church.  Dissension breeds difficulty.  For those who want to follow God’s will and also maintain friendships and fellowship find themselves in awkward positions.  Their joy lessens.  Their work reduces.  Their spiritual life is choked.  They are confused and it will show itself in the body of Christ.

3.  Some become disenchanted.  Maybe the single worst issue behind the consumerism and the disposable concepts brought into play is that it often renders people useless.  The text suggests that 80% of those given a task did nothing with it.  They walked around in fear.  They articulated this in their response to the nobleman.  Actually, blaming him was a symptom of the division rendered by the citizens.  When those who want bigger, better, brighter begin to prattle on it infects everyone and everything around them.  Good people quit.  Active people draw back.  In the end, the church and the community suffer.

The dissenters received their reward just as those who returned in the investment.  God notices it all and will reward accordingly and appropriately when He returns.  May we look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and the gumption to stick with His plan more than our pleasure.  God has given you a Mina.  What will you do?

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