In this post, I wrote about the challenge Sara Groves gave to use all of our spiritual buffalo. I won’t repeat it all here, so if you missed that post, you may want to go read it so this one will make the most sense.
In the comment section, Sherie asked this:
“how can I really do that? I have the desire, and I believe I really mean it, but it doesn’t seem to happen. What do we need to do to really live differently? What is it that stops us?”
I think that is a great question, Sherie. I cannot give an exhaustive answer in just one blog post, but I do want to begin to answer this today.
I think the answer to this begins with addressing the consumerization of spirituality. We have become spiritual consumers. Perhaps we have become so steeped in the notion that we are consumers in all areas of our society, that it was inevitable for it to invade our spirituality. Nevertheless, we have become spiritual consumers.
Just look at your local Christian bookstore. Not only can we buy Bible studies on every facet of our lives, but we can buy Christian fiction that reinforces the things we learn in our non-fiction Bible study and self-help books. We can buy coffee table books with artwork based on scripture. We can buy t-shirts with our favorite Bible verse emblazoned on them. And we can buy every sort of Bible imaginable — old-fashioned translations, modern translations, hip paraphrases, the Bible in a sing-songy poem for our children, and the Bible in a magazine format for our teenagers. We can buy Bibles in soft leather, pastel suede with pretty butterflies in coordinating pastel suede, or in studious black hard leather that cracks to show how much it is used. As one missionary friend of mine said, we can even buy scratch ‘n sniff Bibles.
I’m not so sure about the scratch ‘n sniff, but it really is quite obnoxious how consumer-driven even the sale of the Bible has become. Especially when we consider that millions of people in the world don’t have one word of the Bible in their language, but that is for another posting on another day.
We gobble up books about our own spirituality and line our shelves with books about theology. We fill our iPods with music that expresses our spiritual beliefs and we fill convention centers to hear our favorite authors and musicians. We fill ourselves with teaching and exhortation and blessing. We consume, consume, consume.
We choose our church based on what we’ll get out of it. We tell our friends they have to come to this Bible study with us because we’re learning so much, getting so much. Rarely have I heard someone say, “I just love my church because I have so many opportunities to serve and give and spend myself for Christ.” Rarely have I heard someone say, “You must come to this Bible study with me. You have so much to offer there. It would be a great way for you to help groom someone else’s faith.”
No, we consume, consume, consume. Until we’re fat, fat babies, like that old song Amy Grant sang way back on one of her early albums. And to what end are we filling ourselves up?
My pastor said once that most of us are knowledgeable far beyond our obedience. We are hearers and studiers and even memorizers of the Word, but are we do-ers? Or do we just fill our minds with all sorts of knowledge — Greek meanings and cultural context and nifty facts? Do we hang up beautiful artwork from the Christian bookstore and listen to the latest Christian top-40 and wear the newest Christian slogan on our t-shirt? Or do we actually live out our knowledge? Do we obey that which we have learned?
And those of us who do not stoop to the base culture of wearing Christian t-shirts and hanging up pictures of the Last Supper can certainly quote C.S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias. We can tell you all about church history and debate 5-point Calvinism and describe the difference between a Zealot and an Essene. But do we put all this knowledge to good use?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with Beth Moore Bible studies and Women of Faith Conferences and books by Karen Kingsbury. I don’t think there is anything wrong with going to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert or buying the newest Casting Crowns CD. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Christian t-shirts or Thomas Kinkaide paintings or that cute mug with butterflies and flowers and a Bible verse painted on it. I just think we ought to be more than Christian consumers. I think that sometimes my stomach turns when I get a CBD catalog in the mail and see how commercialized my faith has become.
And, to be honest, I do get queasy thinking about a Purpose-Driven Life money clip or a WWJD day-planner. Somehow, I just don’t think God is all that impressed with all the Christian stuff we buy when we could be buying a slave’s freedom or buying an eleven year old out of a brothel or supporting a missionary who is translating the Bible into a language that didn’t even have an alphabet ten years ago. WWJD? I think Jesus would buy less bracelets and send more money to World Vision or International Justice Mission or New Tribes Mission.
So, for starters, I want to examine my heart — what is my attitude? my mindset? Am I consuming Christian culture the same way the world consumes secular culture? Am I fattening myself up with learning and exhortation just so I can be a spiritual couch potato, doing nobody else any good? Am I grooming my own faith just so I look good for the sake of looking good?
Or do I have a greater purpose in mind? Am I studying the Bible so that I can take that knowledge and go do something with it? Am I learning so that I can, in turn, teach others? Am I asking God to fill me so that my overflow can bless others? Or even better, am I trying to empty myself only to find God filling me as quickly as I pour myself out?
I’ll try to talk about some practical ways later, but I think some self-examination is in order first. Do I approach my faith with a consumer mentality? If so, and I know it has been true of me at times, then I need to ask God to change my heart, to change my approach to my relationship with Him.