American culture, broadly speaking, is a consumeristic one. We are shaped, without any work on our part, to be consumers. History tells us that when production capacity began to outgrow consumption patterns during the industrial revolution companies sought ways to increase the level of consumption of the average person. They did not produce to meet needs. They produced to sell products. Now this is just the air we breathe. We don't question it. And those who tend to challenge this pattern are viewed as trouble-makers and radicals by those who accept the status quo. Consumption defines us more than we want to think about.
My point here is not to confront this pattern of our culture, but to point out how this view of life seeps into our life as Christians. We don't turn off this mentality toward life when we enter into church life or join a small group. The fact is that too often I meet people who have been so defined by consumerism that they consume God, consume church and consume small group life.
The response of the church typically tends to fall into one of two camps. There are those who rebel against consumerism with all their might. Then there are church leaders who buy into it shape the church to provide the best spiritual goods and services. Those who are sickened by consumerism consume the anti-consumeristic message. While the majority fall in line and go to church to consume their weekly dose of spiritual goods and services.
In either approach, people also consumer small group life. We are really good at giving people what they want. For radicals we give them a radical message to talk about in their groups along with some action. For non-radicals we give them religion on Melba toast which we now package as a DVD Bible study. Then we get excited that we are enfolding such a high percentage of our people into groups. But we are just giving them what they already want. Is that really the goal?
Well I'm all for wise enfolding strategies. I've written nine set of church-wide ca pack curriculum that has aimed at this goal.
BUT WE CANNOT STOP THERE. Enfolding, assimilation, closing the back door cannot be our aim. It's only a step along the way, unless of course we don't care about people remaining within the Christian consumer mentality.
What's the alternative? Don't assume that I'm anti Bible study or anti DVD curriculum. I just want more than that. It's connecting small groups +. What's that +?
I'll have more to add the rest of the week.