4 False Beliefs That Consumerism Has Taught Disciple Makers

“We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to want new things….Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.” – Banker, Paul Mazur in 1927

The shift has been made. We now live in a culture where a person’s desires overshadow his needs. And it’s wreaking havoc on our personal lives, our pursuit of God, and our disciple making.

Today, we come to the end of our series on Consumerism and Disciple Making. The first four posts on this topic have been incredibly well received. You have told me how they have opened your eyes to the three main lies of consumerism. Let’s review…

First, that Satisfaction Can Be Purchased. This lie seeks to convince us that we don’t have all we need for life and godliness (2 Pt. 1:8-9) and encourages us to believe that suffering should be avoided, not accepted (Phil. 1:29, 1 Pt. 4:12-13). If satisfaction can be purchased then we seek it in someone or something, rather than in God.

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Second, that Purchasing Power is Found in Systems. This lie desires to shift our value from seeking God to seeking money (Matt. 5:24, 6:33). It reasons that since satisfaction can be purchased, then money is the cure to whatever ails us. Since consumerism offers money through the safety and scale of systems, developing credibility in systems in more important than developing relationships with God or others.

Third, that We Can Pursue Satisfaction and Security in Systems without Surrendering our Identity. This lie invites us to surrender our God-given ability to create and express our hearts in relationships. It’s not that consumeristic systems are opposed to things per say, but that they threaten the system and thus are discouraged. Our cooperation with these system-values changes us from being a relational being who needs to give and receive love (Matthew 22:37-39) to being a one-dimensional cog or expert.

The result of buying into these lies is a nagging sense of boredom. We try to push it down because on the outside we have everything we could want, but inside is a different story. Our boredom could lead us to a new path, but normally people respond with a demanding spirit. In essence saying, “Hey, you promised this and it’s not working, so you better fix it!” Most commonly we demand things NOW, OUR way, and to get a full REFUND if you can’t satisfy me.

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Last time, I implored you to look in the mirror to consider to what extent the false hope of consumerism is impacting you as a disciple of Christ. But one thing we haven’t been able to do yet, is to consider exactly how consumerism is impacting our disciple making efforts. Now that the stage has been fully set, here are four false beliefs that consumerism has taught disciple makers.

First, we believe we can disciple without incarnation. Since consumerism teaches us that knowing is more important than being, most churches engage a discipleship process that’s focused on information instead of incarnation. When relationships aren’t important then curriculum becomes king. Jesus’ very presence on earth and the subsequent witness of the apostles bears witness to the central nature of incarnational relationships. Discipling without incarnation gives the appearance of loving others without requiring relational risk or relational skills. The result is disciple makers who lack both the heart and skill to disciple others.

Second, we believe we can disciple people without intention. In some ways, this is the opposite of the first, which, considering the disciple making scale, shouldn’t be surprising. Since most have never been to seminary, they believe they don’t have what it takes to disciple others. The lack of expertise leads them to the belief that friendship is the only way they can help others. Discipling without intentionality gives people the belief that disciple making is simply friendship and accountability. Without this clear vision of disciple making, they make disciples who have neither a vision or a plan. The result is disciple makers who lack vision and skill.

Third, we believe we can disciple people without application. Since we’ve bought into the lie that satisfaction can be purchased, we are unfamiliar with choosing what’s difficult. Application is the essential step between information and transformation. Most discipling overlooks this step because information transfer has always been adequate to get us further in the systems we trust in for purchasing power and thus for our satisfaction. Yet, Jesus said to make disciples by teaching them to obey and that obeying His commands will lead us to truth that would set us free. Discipling in this way leads to disciples who look and act just like they did before being discipled.

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Finally, we believe we can disciple people without intrusion. Consumers need to be challenged to move beyond their assumptions. Consumerism has taught them to relate to one another safely. And to be polite. After all, if we aren’t then they might leave and find someone or something else to satisfy them. In discipling the follow-up questions are often the intrusive ones. “Ok, you’ve been having quiet times, but what exactly is God teaching you?” or “You haven’t read your Bible in two weeks, but you say you want to know God, how do you think that will happen outside of reading His Word?” Intrusion must happen within the context of a healthy and loving relationship. Discipling without intrusion results in disciple makers who don’t develop the heart or skills to disciple others.

There are surely other ways consumerism impacts our disciple making. What others come to your mind?

Take the time to reflect on how you are discipling or how you have been discipled. How do you think the core tenets of consumerism have affected your disciple making?

Finally, now that we’ve come to the end of our consumerism series, what are you going to do about it?