The Church after Consumerism

Listen to this Talk

A photo of me leading the conversation following this talk in Malaga.

This is a talk that I prepared and gave for a main session at Europe Connect 2023 in Malaga, Spain. It was presented on Saturday 29 July 2023 during the 10:00 session.

This is much longer than my usual refletions and essays.

I believe that there is something in this talk – The Church After Consumerism – for us, for the Church today. The more I have understood the insidiousness of Consumerism the more confident I am that we, together, collectively as the Church, need to stand against it. I want people to experience the love of God, to experience hope.

Our often unconsidered acceptance of consumerism within our cultures and churches has hindered our ability to make disciples that live and look like Jesus in our neighborhoods and our time.

So the question is: do we bring them to the unconditional-ness of God through transactions and consumption, or help them learn a way of just being.

For the yoke of Jesus is pleasant, and his burden is light.
For hope thrives in grace, and is suffocated by shame and hate.

So I invite you come with me. I ask that you do your best to stay with me. Let yourself imagine a future for ourselves, our communities, and all the people of God.


Heavenly Father be present with us. Be gentle with us. We know in our minds that your ways are above our ways, but often our hearts and hands become confused. It is easy for our passions to become enmeshed in the patterns of our age. Yet, you call us to step outside of our age. May you give us a vision for a future, and the courage and wisdom for our next steps.


Spiritual Reflection

I welcome you to a guided spiritual reflection. You may close your eyes, and allow your body to rest & listen for the next 5 minutes.

There are moments. When the calm takes you. That you let the calm take you. There is something about laying on your back in a field. The grasses and plants enveloping you. Reconnecting with nature through all your senses. You let your fingers weave through the earth beneath you. Give it time.

(pause for a hot minute)

Notice the sky. How it stretches further than the horizons of your eyes. It wraps all the way around you. Let your head fall into the earth it is resting on. Slowly something shifts. Unseen. Everything is somehow different. The sky feels like it might consume you. Instead of laying flat on your back, it feel like you’re on the edge of a precipice, the edge of a cliff. That if you let go. Don’t let go. Hold on to everything. You might fall. Fall into the vastness of the cosmos before you. Around you. If you let go of the soil, you would be lost.

Open your hands.

Push against the earth.
Push against your home.
Push against all you have.
Push against all you have become.
Push against all you know.

Wait beloved. Please. Keep your hands open. Don’t stop now.

Let your mind wander and wonder. Let your soul find its way home into the cosmos beyond you, behind you, around you. Feel the terror of not knowing. Deeper you are falling into an unknowable expanse.

Wait beloved. Please. Keep your hands open. Don’t stop now.

It becomes so cold. I’m so sorry. This isn’t an end. But it is. Just not the end. Please. I know it can be a lot. It has to be. It is everything you built. Everything you had become. I know it’s cold. So cold. Don’t stop now. Let your soul find its way. I promise you, it knows the way.

Wait beloved. Please. Keep your hands open. Don’t stop now.

I know it’s dark. The space. So much space. Between all things. I know you’re alone. It’ll happen soon. I promise. I couldn’t tell you sooner. I cannot tell you quiet yet. I know it feels like everything is lost. Trust me, it is only you. You have been lost for a while now. You became so comfortable being lost you even forgot you weren’t home. I know it’s dark, please have faith.

Wait beloved. Please. Keep your hands open. Don’t stop now.

Shhhh. Be quiet. Be calm. Listen. Do your best to feel. It’ll happen soon. It flickers. You should be able to sense it. You’re cold enough in the dark. There is no sound here, but listen. It should crackle soon. There is nothing here between all things. The cosmos is now around and through you. There is enough nothing for it to happen.

Do you feel the numbness. It happens when you are this cold. Unable to tell what you are feeling. Is it pressure or warmth. It is warmth. Give it a minute. It’s not hot, but it is warm. Thats it. Perfect. Not long now.

Wait beloved. Please. Keep your hands open. Don’t stop now.

With nothing left between all things. Here it is. Don’t stop now. Stay here. Stay present. Everything is coming. With all of who you are gone, you’re ready. Here it is. Alone with no one left to impress.

Quietly you feel it begin. There is nothing to see, but you feel it. Warmth cascading through you and over you. Wave after wave. So tender, so loving, so knowing. Even though you fail to know yourself. Somehow you are known.

Welcome beloved. Please, keep your hands open.

You weren’t alone. Never. No one is ever alone. Just lost waiting to be found. To be found we must let go. Falling into the unknown. To keep going when all feels lost. That out of the depths of you comes life and love. That your life exists within love. A love that can guide your soul home. Every time you are lost. Every time you are found. Only then can you know. Know that you were always beloved. Tenderly. Gracefully. Softly. Divinely.

Welcome beloved.

Thanks for letting me invite you into that reflection. Try to hold onto what you may have felt.


It will be helpful if we can, at least for this time, share some ideas and definitions. I am not expecting you to agree with me. My hope. My hope is that these seven foundations can help us dream and imagine a future that brings us closer to an experience of being, and presence. Let us now lay the ground work for the hope that making passionate disciples in our current age.

1) No form of society is right or ordained.

I think this is pretty straight forward. The Church and the work of God happens independently of what form society takes. People experienced and loved God, and continue to do so, under so many structures and systems. For our God is above all things, and is present in all times and circumstances.

2) The church should critique the failures of our social systems

There is a call for some of us within the Church to be set apart. To be voices in the wilderness. Calling us back into the love that compels us to selflessness, humility, and corrects our relationship to creation. These critiques will often be targeted. They will demand institutions do better. Hear their voices. Heed their words. Let us find courage to support them in realizing a more just world.

3) The church existed before Capitalism.

Capitalism took hold over the latter part of the 18th century. So we are here, some 250 years into our global system. The majority of the life of Gods Church didn’t know capitalism. The church has had its life and breath just fine without capitalism.

4) Capitalism is the elevation of Capital over People and Resources.

This system elevates capital above everything else. Now, I am not going to advocate for a different system. But we need to see that there is an interdependence between people (they call it labor to exclude anyone who is incapable of working), resources, and the capital needed to invest to animate the wheels of industry.

Capital has made everything else subordinate to itself. They have methodically influenced governments to entrench their power. Capital should never be the one in power over humanity or creation.

One simple example:
We now call it violence when someone destroys property. Historically violence was against other people or living things. Now destroying, or even defacing, property is violence.

This gives people/governments cover to use violence against people. Violence to protect capitalists investments, and assets. The story breaks down the when we use correct language. “The police used violence after the crowd destroyed some property.”

It has not always been this way, and will not always be this way. Capital should never be the one in power over humanity or creation.

5) Under capitalism the Church has been ravaged.

Hard truth time. Not only is runaway consumerism and capitalism destroying our plant – it ravaged the Church. At the start of Capitalism nearly everyone in Europe was Christian. You can play intellectual games if you want about if they really were or not. But the vast majority called themselves Christian. Today many countries in western Europe are falling into single digit percentages of practicing Christians. It is not as simple as blaming capitalism and consumerism. Yet often the adoption of capitalism is excluded from conversations of the decline of the western Church.

We should not be surprised. Consumerism tells people something contrary to God. That they are in need of what is being sold.

I’ve even heard voices say that the gospel has been animated by capitalism. It has not. We continue to be caught off guard by the power and destructive influence it wields against everyone of us, and the church.

6) Consumerism is a capitalist perversion of consumption.

I do not want anyone to leave thinking I am telling us to stop consuming. Thats not possible. It is possible to consume in subversive and more ethical ways. Capitalism has perverted consumption from a means to an ends. This has been done through any number of strategic and long term ploys.

Some Examples:

(Prepare for the final foundation slide)
We are to the final point in this section. This is what I’ve been building to, and is the primary foundation we’ll rest on, build on, and is where I find my hope. The Hope that God has planted deep within each and every place He could find within me. Stay with me. After this I’ll invite us to dream of a better future.

What is the opposite of Consumerism? It cannot be anti-consumption since…. we need to consume to survive. One might think the opposite of consuming is creating. Yet, creating in this context only exists to take part of the market of consumption. So what is it that we are left with.

(dramatic pause for the big reveal)

7) Being is the Opposite of Consumerism

It is really that simple. Being. Existing. Living into the value and worth we have. That we have only because we have breath. Under capitalism we have value because we create or consume. In the eyes of God we have value because we are. Since our first breath until the last air leaves our lungs we are valuable for just being. We are engulfed in love, grace, and mercy for no reason beyond that we exist.

I really hope that you are still with me. I hope that you are feeling those flickers of possibility in your heart and mind. That means that, at least so far, I’ve been doing my job.

Time to Preach it!

Take a breath with me.

Now it’s time to preach. I don’t get to do this enough, so I’ve got stores of it for you. Let us turn to a few keys from the new testament that I believe can help us. Help us make disciples that live and look like Jesus in our neighborhoods and our time.

The first key is found here.

A Pleasant Yolk and a Light Burden

This is a passage that I have meditated on so much over the years. There is always more for us here. And Jesus is pretty savage against the establishment.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. That you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this is the way that has pleased you. All things have been handed over to me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father. Neither does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.

Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Indeed, my yoke is pleasant, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 [UMT]

Jesus invites us. He calls us into a different way to living. A different way of being. A different way of working. Pleasant work! Work with barely a burden. Working for people who are gentle and humble in heart.

For too long us and our communities have been crushed under the wheels of industry. It’s so engrained in our values and culture that Jesus points us all the way back to nursing infants. That is how far back they needed to go. How much they needed to unlearn. How deeply their minds needed to be transformed. How deeply our minds need to be transformed as well.

The realities of the Kingdom of God are hidden to those raised and working in the world. Just as we are. The yoke is an explicit reference to work. All of us are in need of rest. But there is great news! Jesus wants to give us rest, to have rest, to know rest, and to be a place of rest. Not only to rest, but to completely re-teach us about work!

How does the church orient its people towards work? Do we model work that is pleasant as Jesus taught? For us, our staff, and for all of our neighbors? When they come to us are we gentle and humble in heart? Do we believe that the redemption of the Cross is grand enough to overcome the fall of humanity into toilsome work?

I believe Jesus is inviting us to do less and be more. To be a place and people of refuge. Where the ‘work’ we do together is pleasant, and every burden is light. A pleasure. For God takes such pleasure in being together with us.

In light of this these words of Jesus just seven verses later after being confronted for doing “unlawful” work. Jesus says,

If you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion rather than sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

Matthew 12:7 [UMT]

God does not desire sacrifice from us, but compassion. To abound in compassion for others, for ourselves. To start and end with compassion for the projects, work, and timelines that won’t happen. And for those that will happen.

No one is their work. Their value is not in their production or ability to create. Each of us are valued and loved by God because each of us exist.

This second key is deeply woven within many churches. It is intoxicating with its allure and notions of Gods favor and protection over us. It is a lie Jesus rebuked many time. One that keeps us from one another. And it is really just privilege people are fighting to sustain.

Family, Health, & Wealth is not a sign of Blessing

Explicitly and implicitly across the old testament we see this. One of the most focused tellings is the end of the book of Job. In the final chapter the Lord ‘blessed’ Job by restoring his family with new beautiful children (with their children, etc), from near death into health to live another 140 years, and his wealth with tens of thousands of livestock.

This is not how Jesus talked about family, health, or wealth. None of these things are signs of gods favor or blessing.

Let us start with family.


Jesus radically redefines family. He invites us to do the same. Who is my Family?

While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds His mother and brothers were standing outside. They were wanting to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Look, Your mother and brothers are standing outside. They want to speak to You.” But Jesus responded to them and said, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Then he stretched out His hand towards His disciples. He said, “Here, My mother, and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father, who is in heaven, is my brother, sister, and mother.

Matthew 12:46-50 [UMT]

Again and again we see this disregard for biological family. To embrace the wholeness of those he was with. For the family of God supplants our families of origin. Jesus never had children, He is the only son of God, and we are all his siblings. One another’s siblings.

Take care of your children if you have them. But they are but a few faces within the sea of our family. Our true family. The family we are adopted into, grafted into, and that we can never loose.

Next up is health. To be healthy or not is not a part of being blessed.


As He went along, He saw a man who was born blind. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned that he was born blind? This man or his parents?”
Jesus answered, “Neither that man sinned, nor his parents. Instead, it was so that the works of God might be revealed in him. We must do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.

John 9:1-5 [UMT]

At a glance it might seem that he was sick so that God could heal him. If that was the case it would only be one work. Yet the text is clear that ‘the works (plural) of God might be revealed’. This blind man was a person of overwhelming worth. Of value beyond what the eyes of his disciples could see. One so worthy that the Son of God went to him, sought him out. Met him with tenderness, compassion, and love. Not because he was blind, but in spite of it.

Jesus responded out of his bottomless wells of love and compassion to so many across the gospels. The paralyzed, lepers, and many more were already full of worth and value. Worth and value that the disciples, and us today, fail to see. The fullness of God in the Spirit dwells within them.

Ones health is not a sign of Gods favor or judgement.

There is no greater blessing than Gods presence. Now and forever. Amen? Amen.

Now we get to wealth. I’ve got two passages here.


The first passage is from Lukes account of the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are the Poor.

Then He looked up towards His disciples, and began to speak.
Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God….
But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.

Luke 6:20, 24 [UMT]

This is very clear. Jesus is telling us, without condition, that the poor are blessed. That those who are rich will have exhausted their comfort. This is quite different from the account in Job and in other parts of the old testament.

Lets keep going.

The rich will not inherit the kingdom.

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, and honor your parents.’
“All these things I have kept from my youth,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you possess, distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.
But when he heard these things, he became deeply grieved, for he was extremely wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!
Those who heard Him said, “Then, who can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “Things that are impossible for people are possible with God!

Luke 18:18-27 [UMT]

Now none of us can know who Jesus would ask this of today. To sell all their possessions and to distribute the money to the poor. Yet it is clear that it is hard for wealthy people to enter the Kingdom of God. Even this person of exceptional character. Someone who was invited to follow Jesus just as the other disciples were. He couldn’t.

I wonder how many of our churches revere the wealthy and successful in their midst. How many are given places of privilege on boards, at banquettes, and in the life of the church.

It can be admirable to excel at the games of the world. But Jesus is clear – as followers of his we will be called to abandon the ways of the world. That we cannot build wealth on the abuse and subjugation of people. People of untold value and worth – Because they are loved by our God. Because they exist.

Instead of standing against consumerism. Large parts of the western church have given themselves over to Christian Capitalists, who create billion dollar markets. In the process they have crafted themselves as Saints in the eye of millions. Too many of us have forgotten that the way of Jesus is meek and humble. That the rich do not attain heaven easily. For the eyes of needles are small.

Rather – Shouldn’t the business world be learning from the Church how to be human. Instead it is often the church learning how to be inhumane from business leaders and their strategies. The business world thrives by sacrificing others, and in their lack of compassion. The business world could learn that “God desires compassion and not sacrifice.”

Let’s close up this second key. Family, Health, & Wealth is not a sign of Blessing.

Concluding this Section on Family, Healthy, and Wealth.

Hear me clearly:

Let us not conflate an easy life with God’s favor, and let us not see a hard life as one of judgement.

Let us not conflate an easy life with God’s favor, and let us not see a hard life as one of judgement.

That feeling you might sense in your gut in hearing this. Without putting words to it, it is wrong. Gods love is not vindictive. It is not conditional. It is not given out in parts or portions. The love of our God is abundant, undivided, and given to everyone in excess.

Let us not conflate an easy life with God’s favor, and let us not see a hard life as one of judgement. Our Gods love is abundant, undivided, and given to everyone in excess.

The third key. Churches as Embassies.

Churches as Embassies for the Kingdom of Gods Reign

This is another one of those passages and ideas that I regularly find myself meditating upon. It’s so simple, and can be so transformative.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ. Just as if God were making an appeal through us. We beg you, on behalf of Christ: “Be reconciled to God!” He made Him, who did not know sin, to be sin on our behalf. So that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 [UMT]

Embassies and Consulates are outposts of one nation inside another. Ambassadors are physical representatives and embodiments of the kingdoms they are sent from. In the midst of a different culture and nation they embody the values of their kingdom. Not only to embody those value, but to promote them. To invite others to experience them. May we be a place of freedom out of the gracious and merciful love of Christ.

Oh, the dream I have. That our churches would be outposts – embassies for the Kingdom of Gods Reign. Where everyone is valued, loved, lifted up, and showered in compassion. Where the love of God animates our longing to dwell in His kingdom. A field of love within us that brings forth an abundant harvest of grace, mercy, compassion, and all the fruit of the spirit. That within the walls of our churches those who are high would be brought low, and those who are low are invited to the seat of honor at the great banquet.

This helps me encapsulate how to live in the world, but not of the world. That our lives might be living critiques of our contexts, and living invitations to a better way of being.

We are here now, at the conclusion of my talk. I have one more point to make. The point I’ve been building towards this whole time.
The place I think we need to start.
The place out of which the church can move past consumerism.
The place out of which we might make disciples that live and look like Jesus in our neighborhoods and our time – in any time.

The place is Incarnational Discipleship.

Incarnational Discipleship

For me, this idea of Incarnational Discipleship is not about learning, but about the slow, hidden, and difficult process of being transformed from the inside out. To incarnate the Kingdom of God, its values, its orientation to ourselves and others.

How can you, being evil, express anything good? For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart. The good person brings good things out of their deposits of good. The evil person brings evil out of their deposits of evil.

Matthew 12:34b-35 [UMT]

This passage, along with others point us to the fact that we must, as a church, as individuals, elevate and prioritize the inner work. It is slow, it is hard, and it is mostly unrewarded. You cannot buy your way through this. There is no certificate, and there are no shortcuts.

Yet out of this work flows life! This work embodies the value God sees in you, in each of us. It brings together connections between love, grace, compassion, mercy, and can give us hope. Hope that none of this is in vain. That God doesn’t need to win in the end, because God has won and raptured our hearts already. That the more we do the work, the deeper our deposits of good become. Deposits that we can nearly deplete for the sake of our siblings. Both lost and found.

I don’t want to end our time together with any confusion on the essentials. So hear me clearly.

Here the sacred doesn’t know scarcity.
Welcome beloved
Here Love always waits for us in abundance.
Welcome beloved
God doesn’t do supply side economics.
Welcome beloved
There is no waiting list with Jesus.
Welcome beloved
There has never been a day where Gods grace has failed.
Welcome beloved
No-one is ever turned away.
Welcome beloved
The way of Jesus is not available for purchase.
Welcome beloved
The fullness of the Holy Spirit was poured out within you.
Welcome beloved
To a life in Gods presence. A life discovering all of you is known & loved.
Welcome beloved
To the gifts of the spirit flowing from us when we learn how to let go of ourselves.
Welcome beloved
You can just be here. Nothing you do or don’t do changes who you are to God.

‌Wait beloved. Please. Keep your hands open. Don’t stop now.


Photo Credit
Paul Prins on 24 July 2023 in Nerja, Spain

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