« They Like Me! They Really Like Me! | Main | Help Me With My Math »

January 22, 2006




this is good stuff brother.

I am intrigued by your raising the issue of telos and how that effects everything else we do. I look forward to reading your finished work.

Scott in Houston

Hi Greg

I'm happy to hear you're going to be speaking at the conference. I think you have a lot to say on the subject. Are you speaking at a breakout session?




Much of this was contained in my thesis. I'm trying to find time to convert it into book format.


Yes, a breakout session. Not sure of anything else yet. I'll post the information about schedule when I get it.

Anabaptist Monk

Have they included a black and white photo of you in their brochure? Shot down at you as you look up or up close-up with part of your face cropped?


Put me down for a copy of the paper if you make it available.


Hey Greg,
I've really enjoyed reading your thought-provoking posts. I find this one particularly intriguing, as it resonates with the main reason my husband (the Pete) and I left our church last September. We became increasingly uncomfortable with the consumeristic/business model mindset that the pastors and leadership were pushing as "God's vision for our church" and the whole idea that the church exists for the lost (ie., seeker sensitive). To all our friends who still go to that church, I'm sure it looked like we just up and jumped ship, but in reality, the church was still using a lot of the same language that they had been for the past six years, and it wasn't until recently that we understood they meant something entirely different from it than what we meant.

I was wondering if you could clarify your statement: "This commerce narrative redefines the purpose of Bible reading, prayer, spiritual disciplines, outreach, and every other task in which the church engages. The justification for this shift in teleological emphasis has been an insistence that the telos of church is growth, but this notion is also borrowed from the dominant commerce narrative."

How are the purposes of Bible reading, prayer, spiritual disciplines, etc., being redifined by the more consumer-driven churches? Do you have any specific examples in mind to compare and contrast? I find this all fascinating, as I think I may have an inkling about what you're getting at, but I'd like to see your thought fleshed out a bit more to know for sure.


Call Me Ishmael

By subjugating the Christian masses into the role of spiritual consumers the church's ruling class has monopolized the means of spiritual production for the ends of perpetuating its class superiority. Church-goers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your fill-in-blank workbooks and endless fund raising drives!



I'll answer the questions this weekend. I'm working against deadlines today and tomorrow.



The commerce narrative is the dominant narrative in the U.S. We're hearing the ways it has shaped even theology in our lifetime--in the crude and overt form of Word of Faith theology and in the more subtle syncretism of conservative politics and evangelicalism. To be American is to have our lives shaped by "pursuit of happiness" or "life, liberty, property" or capitalism or "time is money," and many other phrases and ideas that shape our conversations and careers and lives. One of the most damaging effects has been the commodification of all facets of our lives. Everything related to me has a value, either monetary, personal or emotional. Friendship is more and more a transactional relationship. Church, as someone told me this weekend, is a buyer's market. What do you need? A youth group? Well, leave that stuffy old church you've been at or your kids will suffer. (Because they learn so much in a situation wherein we abandon covenant relationships for personal gain or self-actualization.) You need Bible studies tailored to your family? Find a bigger church with better choices. The transactional view of my time vis-a-vis the way I "spend" it has come to affect the choices we make where church and spiritual growth are concerned.

Why read Scripture? To learn principles that give me a better life. Why pray? To ask for things for myself and my friends. (Do we really believe that a prayer for a new house in the U.S. has as much weight as a prayer for shelter in Darfur? How spoiled are we?) Why meet with a small group? To get emotional support or facilitate friendships that really aren't friendships because they never happen outside the formalized small group. Everything is a transaction. I give you my time; I get something back. The Bible better have good principles to help me be a better manager or supervisor or teacher or whatever. Why read it otherwise? If all it's doing is telling me a story about some future kingdom, well, that's no good to me now. And never mind living in that sort of kingdom now, even if it's possible; it's simply too impractical to work in the world. I need things that work in the "real world." Thus, spiritual disciplines, church, friendship, etc., are appropriated based not on what they were originally intended to do (and part is life enrichment...just not all), but upon the mistaken belief that there are some benefits to be derived that give me power to live the life I choose within the narrative of the parent culture--commerce. The idea that the Gospel might be a narrative that utterly eradicates the commerce narrative is never considered, so the purpose of the disciplines within the rubric of the kingdom is never considered.

The comments to this entry are closed.