Some time ago I shared an infograph on my instagram (I shared it from somewhere. I lost track of the source. Please let me know if you own the image) and received some positive responses. I feel that I might as well outline my other concerns with the church today. Yes we are in a consumerist culture and this needs to be accepted. No amount of attacks towards consumerism is going to yield more disciples. Worse, most of our approaches of merely condemning the present cultures only distance the church from the “normal” people around us.
Accepting the reality of consumerist culture helps us to realistically assess the situation and prayerfully seek God’s way of engaging with the people in such context.
The Jews in the early church were not aware of the nature of the gospel which can travel from one culture to another and change those cultures in the process. The New Testament clearly shows how Paul, Peter and the early church eventually came to realization that the gospel was for the gentiles as well. Surely the trans-cultural nature of the gospel will take its effect in our age. The gospel has been accepted by the Greeco-Roman world and changes them, and the same happened to the European cultures. In today’s postmodern, highly consumeristic context, the gospel will surely challenge and change the culture – after it has entered it.
So before we criticize those who believe they are entrusted to engage the consumers of today, let’s pause and remember that once, the Jews were also wondering if the gospel should remain entirely Jewish. Today, we who grew up in a different socioeconomic context, must not be too quick to judge. Shall the gospel be domesticated by the agrarian culture and be excluded from the consumerist culture birthed by modern free-market capitalism? I think it will find its way to the consumers, and then change them to disciples.
Of course there are others who may think that consumerism is outright incompatible with the gospel. Again, if we understand it as a kind of culture, we should already know that no culture in this world is fully compatible with the gospel. That’s why some missionaries of today are engaging the “consumers” like the missionaries in the past, engaging them with their culture.
The gospel doesn’t change, and it doesn’t need us to overprotect it.