What is the contemporary church blinded to? The fun of this question is that the one who asks it nearly always assumes he or she knows the answer and is privy to something most aren’t. I don’t think it is all harsh on Paul Metzger to suggest that his book Consuming Jesus is making just this claim. He’s in on something that many are missing. What is it?
What do you think the evangelical church is blinded to?
Metzger claims the evangelical church has a “disordered vision.” That vision is consumerist. Here are his words:
“The consumerist mindset entails giving consumers what they want, when they want it, and at the least cost to consumers themselves. It also creates in consumers the desire to want, and then to want more, event to want things they did not originally want — programming them to buy a given product in the free-market system” (40). “It all appears to be benign; yet it is very divisive” (40).
This consumerist mindset leads to a blindness to a “trade triangle”: consumerism, upward mobility, and homogeneity in the church.
1. Blind to racialization.
2. Blind to consumer-market forces: “we fail to grasp how evil and dehumanizing the consumer-market forces can be” (43). Thus, “the market mind-set means that the gospel signifies an exchange between God and us rooted in satisfying our untrained needs” (45). Race and income track one another.
3. Blinded by success: “The most dominant and successful leaders and movements are the proponents of the status quo” (48). He goes after Rick Warren and Saddleback which “caters to consumer market forces” (49).
Preachers must tell the good news with the bad news from the get-go.
4. Blind to evangelical social structures. He sees three elements of this:
a. There is a focus on individual-relational life. Here he chooses to go after Bill Hybels. “Hybels’s aim to reach a particular homogenous target audience of seekers, once it was given primacy, became malignant” (56).
b. There is an antistructural bias. Evangelicals don’t perceive structural issues.
c. There is a small-group breeding ground. Homogenous small-groups is an issue. This leads him to pick on emergent small groups which he wonders about — will they break through the racial issues?
[I must comment here: It is odd that he picks on Warren and Hybels who, though clearly shaped by marketing strategies, are the two most socially-active megachuch pastors in the USA. None of this is documented with statistics or evidence — nor his comments about emergent.]