Tag: consumerism

The future of small churches in a changing economy

I don’t mean to harp on this, but the current rise in oil prices impacts more than just where we take our next vacations. As James Howard Kunstler states in his article, Wake Up America, We’re Driving Toward Disaster:

As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending. These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis.

The rise in oil prices will have a ripple effect through the world economy, and small churches (big ones, too) will be affected. The good news is Kunstler sees a re-ordering of American life:

So what are intelligent responses to our predicament? First, we’ll have to dramatically reorganize the everyday activities of American life. We’ll have to grow our food closer to home, in a manner that will require more human attention. In fact, agriculture needs to return to the center of economic life. We’ll have to restore local economic networks — the very networks that the big-box stores systematically destroyed — made of fine-grained layers of wholesalers, middlemen and retailers.

We’ll also have to occupy the landscape differently, in traditional towns, villages and small cities. Our giant metroplexes are not going to make it, and the successful places will be ones that encourage local farming.

Kunstler sees us buying locally, growing more of our food locally, and moving in a small geographic area with $5/gallon gas than we did with $2/gallon gas. With this small, local revolution in the works, small churches that position themselves to minister to their community will be attractive as our country refocuses on small, local, sustainable experiences from food production to education to work to worship. Churches have the opportunity to lead this revolution. The question is “will we learn to think differently” and reimagine the church, not as a consumer experience, but as a community that serves.

A simple life

edenspathhhouse2.jpg Eden’s Path – detail of our house from a painting by Debbie.

Debbie and I created a new blog to record our journey toward a simpler life. Eden’s Path features the practical things we are doing to spend less, enjoy life more, and live in the rhythm of God’s grace.

The name, Eden’s Path, comes from an old Celtic Christian saying that life on this earth is like living with “one foot in Eden.” We believe that God’s creation is good, that we live with the earth, not just on it. We’re also trying to consume less, despite the encouragement of our government for us to spend more. Evermore growth will not solve our spiritual, social, or economic problems. Being better stewards of God’s gifts to us will, we believe.

So, if you have time, stop over. We mostly are telling the stories about what we’re doing to find the simple life of faith, hope, and dreams. I’m not sure if it will take us to Eden, but at least we’ll be on the path.

Is Feb 3 really Super Bowl Sunday?

christ.jpg This or this? super-bowl-logo.jpg

In the Christian Year, Sunday February 3 is Transfiguration Sunday. In popular culture, February 3 is Super Bowl Sunday. On that Sunday, churches have two choices for the heading in their worship bulletins or on their video screens:

  1. Super Bowl Sunday -or-
  2. Transfiguration Sunday

In the past, I have gone with Super Bowl Sunday. This year, I choose Transfiguration Sunday. Why? Because we as followers of Christ need to be shaped by something other than the pop culture calendar. Let me explain:

Here’s what the pop culture calendar looks like:

  • Christmas: shopping starts before Halloween.
  • New Year’s: parades, football, parties.
  • Valentine’s: shopping for your romantic love, and named after a saint.
  • March: basketball.
  • Easter: more shopping for new clothes, school holidays, spring vacation.
  • Mother’s Day: shopping for mom.
  • Father’s Day: shopping for dad.
  • 4th of July: food, flags, and more parades.
  • Fall: Back to school. more shopping for school clothes.
  • Halloween: national day of shopping for candy and costumes.
  • Thanksgiving: food and football.

Notice a pattern? Our culture revolves around sports, shopping, and food. Churches do not need to help culture shape us into hyper-consumers.

Contrast the pop culture calendar with the Christian Year:

  • Advent: waiting for the coming of Christ.
  • Christmastide: the birth of Christ.
  • Epiphany: the revealing of the Christ to the Wisemen.
  • Baptism of Christ: the beginning of Jesus ministry.
  • Transfiguration of Christ: the glory of God in Christ.
  • Lent: 40-days of reflection taken from Christ’s 40-days in the wilderness.
  • Palm Sunday: the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
  • Holy Week: the events in the last week of Christ — last supper, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial.
  • Easter: the resurrection of Christ.
  • Pentecost: the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church.
  • Kingdomtide: a time of growth between Pentecost and Advent, when the cycle starts all over again.

But, many object that the Christian year is “too Catholic.” Actually, what could be more Christian than marking time by the events in the life of Christ? Thousands of churches of various denominations worldwide observe time this way. Isn’t it more in keeping with the mission of the church to shape our lives around the life of Christ? Isn’t this a part of our uniqueness as the people of God, that our lives have a unique rhythm?

You don’t have to break out the censers, candles, and paraments to observe the Christian Year. Just identify each Sunday in your bulletin and offer a quick word of explanation. Your church will understand what it means, and many might find a new way to order their lives. You can still have a Super Bowl party for your community that evening. But let’s identify the day we gather for worship by something other than Super Bowl Sunday. Let me know what you think.
If you need resources for the Christian Year, you can find them at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School website here, or by searching the web.

Five trends changing the way we live

You have got to see this slideshow from PSFK, a trend watching company out of the UK. They nail some of the emerging trends in the consumer world, which has big implications for church.  Piers Fawkes identifies these five trends changing the consumer world:

  1. Good food.  Healthier, fewer ingredients, natural, easy, and fun.
  2. Craft.  Reusing, recycling, reclaiming, reducing, and redesigning everything from clothes to furniture to art to you-name-it.  Handmade is in, machine-made is out.
  3. Pro-service, anti-product.  Do you need an explanation here?
  4. Local.  Buy local, eat local, have fun locally.  Locavore is the hot new word — one who eats locally raised food. 
  5. Taking control.  Ditto #3. 

(Click here to go to Slideshare, then click full screen for best viewing.)