Last night, I began reading Paul Metzger’s "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church". I was already convinced it was a good book by reading Darryl Dash’s multiple posts on it. Metzger asks this in the introduction,
When Christ returns, will he find faith, the kind of faith that engages suffering and breaks down walls of division between peoples – or not? What he certainly will find is some version of the shopping-mall church, with wonderful sound systems for the praise songs and a latte-to-go. If we think of the latte as a new metaphor for the "opiate of the masses", we can see the evangelical church often functions as an opiate of the consumer masses. An all-consuming house cleaning is in order.
And later, he quotes Dr. John Perkins,
The only purpose of the gospel is to reconcile people to God and to each other. A gospel that doesn’t reconcile is not a Christian gospel at all. But in American it seems we don’t believe that. We don’t really believe that the proof of our discipleship is that we love one another (see John 13:35). No, we think the proof is in numbers – church attendance, decision cards. Even if our "converts" continue to hate each other, even if they will not worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ, we point to their "conversion" as evidence of the gospel’s success. We have substituted a gospel of church growth for a gospel of reconciliation.
Metzger responds to Perkins,
We have been seduced by success, and we will downplay confronting race and class barriers to grow churches quickly. Many evangelical leaders believe that the best way to multiply churches quickly is to make members fell comfortable rather than comfort them with with the cross that breaks down the divisions between God, us, and others. Churches cater to people’s consumer passions of getting what they want, when they want it, and at the least perceived cost to themselves.
The Introduction alone has enough meat in it to make the book worth purchasing. What Metzger has written strongly resonates with me. I look forward to delving deeper into Consuming Jesus over the next week. (It will be my main read on my flight to Vancouver on Sunday.) I’ll make a point of blogging the read.
In light of this book and the recent consumeristic church conversation, I would again point to David Fitch’s most recent post – and the conversation taking place in the comments. And Fitch’s "The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from Big Business, Parachurch Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism, and Other Modern Maladies" is a must read – and possibly a perfect companion to Metzger’s book.