Exploring the Shift from Consumer Culture to Sacred Partnering
By The Rev. Ginny Aebischer
It is not uncommon for some people to think of Church as a business. In fact, many people have emphatically told me, “Pastor, you need to remember that the Church is a Business!” While I understand what they are trying to express I do not think this is the most helpful way to understand the Church of Jesus Christ. This way of thinking confuses the purpose of Church and the true nature of discipleship in Jesus’ name.
During our SC Synod Leadership Days this past winter we spent some time in conversation about the three big shifts for the church in the 21st century. I am grateful for the conversations we were able to have and also grateful to the Rev. Dr. Mark Tidsworth, President of Pinnacle Leadership Associate, Pastor, Coach, Consultant and Friend, for sharing his research and insights with us. You can read about this yourself in his book, “Shift” which is available from Pinnacle Leadership Press.
The third Shift helps us reflect on the change from Consumer Culture to Sacred Partnering. Our culture communicates clearly and often to us that we are consumers. We are bombarded with offers to spend our money to improve our lives, and we are given more choices for everything from cars and trucks to toothpaste to fill our deepest needs and desires. Over time our identities have been securely shaped into consumers of goods and services. So it isn’t surprising that we bring this way of thinking into our church and faith lives.
It isn’t surprising that we judge churches by the religious services they offer. We are all familiar with the phenomenon of “church shopping.” And even if we don’t participate in it directly we are certainly influenced by it. We want to be sure that “our church” is providing the latest and greatest programs and services, and every ministry opportunity that is possible under the sun, so that anyone who is “church shopping” will take a close look at the options we have to offer. We find ourselves competing with one another for members instead of recognizing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ with the same calling: to share the Good News of Jesus. And we also often find ourselves afraid that we aren’t making everyone happy and someone will decide to pick up and leave for “greener pastures.”
We are all programmed to think like consumers. But this begs the question that Pastor Tidsworth asks in his book, “Is this what Jesus had in mind when he breathed the Church into being?” The truth is that we are made into the Body of Christ. The ones who are washed in the waters of Holy Baptism and fed with the bread and wine of new life so that we can be in relationship with God through Christ, and in turn, in relationship with one another for the sake of the gospel. Consumer culture teaches us that everything centers around us, but the gospel teaches us that everything centers in Jesus! This is the Good News! God is with us and God calls us to be His Church! It is God’s church and God’s mission in Christ. You and I are called to join in that mission and share the Good news of God’s love to the ends of the earth. Our neighborhoods and communities are good places to start. By listening to our neighbors and looking for the places where God is active we get a picture of how to join in with God’s mission what God is already doing in our midst. And it is important to recognize that sharing the gospel of Jesus is a big job and goes more smoothly when we partner with one another.
Living out our calling to be disciples of Jesus every day is challenging and we soon learn that we cannot do it alone. We do it better when we have sacred partners who share the journey of faith with us. We do it better when we are the Church together; when we have one another to encourage and sustain us so we can go deeper into our discipleship and follow Christ more and more closely. We soon learn that it is all about relationships. Our relationship with Jesus is sustained and strengthened in proportion to the strength of our relationships with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is in these faith relationships that we can share our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows and “create a space for holy restlessness” which deepens our discipleship. It turns out that Jesus has provided for us a community to share in this faith journey. We know that we do not walk this path alone. Thanks be to God!
Watch these Mark Tidsworth videos to understand more about SHIFT.