Thoughts on a multiracial church lead to the second way in which the Church must be counter-cultural. The Church must be counter-cultural by standing against the overwhelming consumerism, most prevalent in American culture. Emerson and Smith suggest that evangelicals are not immune to consumerism when they state, “The organization of American religion is characterized by disestablishment, pluralism, competition, and consumer choice. This organization is partly shaped and often capitalized on by evangelicals. And as a consequence of sociological and social psychological principles at work, congregations become and remain highly racially homogeneous” (p. 151; emphasis mine). The racial homogeneity of Christian congregations is a by-product of the emphasis of the surrounding culture.
Similarly, Alan Hirsch targets the church growth movement when he explains, “Under the influence of contemporary church growth practice, consumerism has actually become the driving ideology of the church’s ministry,” and that discipleship is at odds with consumerism (p. 110). Consumerism is detrimental to the Church’s health and its missional nature. Reflecting upon sexuality, Walsh and Keesmaat in their emphasis on the anti-imperial nature of the gospel suggest, “You see, if the empire is all about economic growth driven by a lifestyle of consumption, then all of life becomes a matter of consumption—including our sexual life. Multiple sexual partners is just good capitalism” (p. 162). Consumerism is something the Church must avoid. Whereas the culture is controlled by individualism and consumption, the Church is called to be people of sacrifice and commonality.
Thirdly, if the Church is to be a people of “all nations,” the Church must be marked by a global attitude. Since the Church is a global people, it must neglect nationalism. As one popular bumper-stick states, “God bless the world. No exceptions.” Consumption leads to a nationalistic attitude that is unbeneficial for the missional nature of the people of Christ. Walsh and Keesmaat speak about the Church’s need for an alternative politics than the one presented by the American empire when they reveal,
What other role do civic events such as Independence Day, the State of the Union Address and Remembrance Day, together with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America” (these are hymns remember!), have but to provide a moment of ritual that gives religious legitimation [sic] to the American empire? But these are not the worship events of the Christian community! In our worship we tell and retell another story than that of the republic, hear another word proclaimed, eat an alternative meal of remembrance, pledge allegiance to another sovereign, and sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that set our imaginations free for another way of life, another politics (p. 183; emphasis original).
The missional Church must be marked by a global mindset. The Church is a peculiar people and a people of “all nations.” Thus, pushing a nationalistic agenda is detrimental to the missional nature of the followers of Christ.
Part 3 of series on “The Marks of the Missional Church”
Citations for all posts:
- DeYoung, C. P., Emerson, M. O., Yancey, G., & Kim, K. C. “All Churches Should Be Multiracial”, in Christianity Today 49 (April, 2005).
- Emerson, M. O. & Smith, C. (2000). Divided by faith: evangelical religion and the problem of race in America. New York: Oxford.
- Hirsh, A. (2006). The forgotten ways. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.
- Keller, T. (2001). “The missional church.”
- Walsh, B. J. & Keesmaat, S. C. (2004). Colossians remixed: subverting the empire. Downers Grove: IVP.