I drove by a sign the other day that said: ‘When All Else Fails Try Jesus”. As I read that sign I immediately was struck by two things. One was – the honesty of the person who took the time to put the letters up there to make that message. I believe they sincerely want to extend GOD’s grace to those of us who are driving by- in some small way maybe plant a seed in someone’s mind that, instead of giving up on life, they would look to Jesus for a renewed life. The other thought that struck me was how consumeristic it sounded. As if Jesus was a product of some kind – that, after tasting the line up of competing products – we would finally become devoted Jesus consumers.

I guess maybe the metaphor of consuming Jesus isn’t so bad – afterall – Jesus himself told the crowds to eat his body and drink his blood. But on second thought – that was the exact moment when the throngs of religious ‘consumers’ turned away from him. They could not understand him with their natural minds because he was speaking of a spiritual reality. It’s amazing how easy it is to become a religious consumer and miss really being a disciple of Jesus. It is easy being in the crowd and following him at a distance. And it is easy being offended at things that he says.

But we are invited to become so much more than passive consumers of a comfortable religious system. If we really are his disciples – we must begin to recognize the ways in which this consumer mentality is subverting the true power of the Gospel to transform us and our communities. Maybe we need to examine our patterns of life as individuals and as church communities – and begin to ask the LORD to free us from the ways in which we have allowed the self-absorbed patterns of our culture to shape the expression of our Christian faith.

As Alan and Debra Hirsch have written in the book ‘Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship‘:

“Of all the ways culture influences the church, nothing has had more of an impact on us than that of a consumerist vision of society…we are daily being nurtured in the worldview generated by late capitalism of the twenty-first century – consumerism…It is a religious scripting born of a powerful economic system. As we have already seen, consumerism exhibits the hallmarks of a very virile meta-spirituality offering meaning, identity, purpose, and belonging to it’s various devotees.

The church, far from being immune, has drunk deeply from its wells. In fact, we have pretty much designed contemporary expressions of church around consumer values…It’s as though the church-as-vendor has become a giant feeding trough where largely capable, middle-class people come to eat their fill. Actually, many don’t even eat for themselves; they come to “get fed”! The very language of “getting fed” at church betrays the fact that many attendees are not disciples at all, but rather passive consumers. Want to test this? Simply stop preaching every Sunday for six weeks, or close down the children’s ministry, or stop some other “service” or another, even temporarily, and see what happens. Attendance and tithing will drop immediately…” (Untamed – p.138-139)

Maybe this could be a message to ourselves as the Church – “When All Else Fails Try Jesus’-  when all our programs and methodologies for marketing and growing our churches has failed – maybe we will again return to simply learning and living as disciples of Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, we won’t be offended if he smashes our road-side marquees in the same way he overturned the money-changers’ tables in the temple at Jerusalem.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)


J. Fowler

J. Fowler is the website editor and co-founder, along with his wife Pamela, of the Sustainable Traditions project. The Fowlers live with their seven children on a farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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