Brandon (my wife) and I were recently watching a game show where the contestants were asked; “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow what would you do tonight?” One of the first answers given was, “I’d go shopping.”
“Shopping…really!” I thought to myself. I almost blurted out, “you wouldn’t even have time to enjoy your purchases,” as if they would hear me on the other side of the LED screen. I don’t know, maybe this person wanted to buy an outfit for their wake?
However, the more I thought about that answer the more it made sense. (By the way, the responses given by other contestants weren’t much better.) The answer makes sense because we are becoming (have become?) more and more a culture of consumers. Skye Jethani says;
…as contingent beings we must consume resources to survive. The problem is not consuming to live, but rather living to consume. (pg. 157)
The distinction is clear, we are increasingly becoming a society marked by consumerism (living to consume). Often we don’t shop because we need something, we shop simply to shop. And that gets to the answer given by the contestant on the game show. There was no time for a thoughtful answer. The rules of the game demanded an immediate answer and the visceral response was, “go shopping!” You might expect a religious answer like pray, or seek counsel from a religious leader, or do good deeds. Yet, don’t miss it, the answer given was religious, it was, “go shopping.”
In a culture of consumerism; comfort, choice, and convenience are king. This means when consumerism infiltrates the church, often undetected, Christ is no longer King. He is instead, in the words of Jethani, demoted “from Lord to label.” Now Jesus is in service to the consumer and their project of self-fulfillment.
In his book, Uncomfortable, Brett McCracken contrasts the worldly hunger for continual comfort with the Biblical calling to covenant. He wrote:
If the church is going to thrive in the twenty-first century, she needs to be willing to demand more of her members. She needs to assert the importance of covenants over comfort, even if that is a message that will turn off some. She needs to speak prophetically against the perversions of cultural and consumer Christianity, seeker-unfriendly as that will be. She needs to call Christians away from an individualistic, “just me and Jesus” faith, challenging them to embrace the costliness of the cross and the challenge of life in a covenantal community. (pg. 183)
Why covenant over comfort? McCracken answered:
…covenants do something that is far more constructive than anything comfort can do. Covenants challenge us to bear with and sacrifice for the sake of others, for the glory of God. (pg. 183)
This is why at Redeemer we practice covenant membership. We believe that God has called us to commit to walking together (Phil. 1:27), to guarding one another (Heb. 3:12-14), and to encouraging one another (Heb. 10:23-25). Put simply: we are committed to helping one another follow Jesus. We do this because Christ, not comfort, is King and He is worthy. I’ll conclude with this from McCracken:
Covenants teach us that keeping promises to others is more important than being true to yourself. (pg. 185)