Missional Journal Vol. 1 No. 11 – Narcissism and Materialism

Question Two: What other reductionisms do you observe in American versions of the gospel?

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2 Responses to Missional Journal Vol. 1 No. 11 – Narcissism and Materialism

  1. Rob Opitz says:

    Another reductionism that I see is to equate following Jesus with whether or not you made a decision and said a “sinner’s prayer”, regardless of the fruit (or lack thereof) that is evident in your life since then. That decision-oriented approach tended to call people back to a God they may have left, but doesn’t seem to be effective in a post-Christian society. The decisions sometimes are a result of fear, or mental agreement with a set of doctrines. Jesus’ call to follow Him is more about a lifelong journey than a one time decision.

  2. Jim Arcieri '85 says:

    Dave – When I was a pastor, I used to teach about this, using an illustration – “The NICE Cycle.” The cycle goes like this: when a Christian family moves to an area, one of the first questions they ask a real estate agent is “Where are the NICE public schools?” The agent replies”In the NICE neighborhoods.” But, in order to afford a NICE home, you need a NICE income – which usually means a DOUBLE income. Which means you have to have gone to a NICE college, in order to obtain a NICE job, in order purchase a home in a NICE neighborhood, so your children can attend a NICE public school. Does that sound like missional thinking to you – or captivity to the GREAT AMERICAN DREAM a.k.a GAD?

    And given the overwhelmingly humanistic worldview of the public schools, why are Christians so willingly putting themselves in such bondage to GAD? Maybe the materialism isn’t about cars and computers etc – maybe it begins with this unexamined assumption of accepting one’s inevitable place in the NICE cycle?

    What if we asked a different question – instead of where are the NICE schools – where are the solid churches? What if a family was committed to a strong family life, with mom at home (at least in the early years of children). Then, perhaps they would simply home school, and not have to enslave themselves to a mortgage beyond their means, or which disables them from tithing at least 10%? In fact, they might turn out children with a more thorough and deeper Biblical worldview. I recently became acquainted with a small group of Christian entrepreneurs, all of which were home-schooled, and they are light-years ahead of their public school educated peers in Biblical understanding of money, mission, and government. These are the type, who were never in the NICE cycle, who resonate to your missional message.

    So, that would be a VERY PRACTICAL challenge and lifestyle change that pastors could give to congregations – to enable their people to discover if they unquestioningly worship the deity GAD, all the while they profess to worship GOD. I personally don’t see any other suggestion that is powerful enough to rock the boat, and dislodge people into missional thinking – the first mission is the mission of the family – not the church, right? But if the core of the family is GAD, then even our NICEST (pun intended) evangelical churches are only a veneer of the gospel, full of NICE people living happily (or maybe enviously) in the NICE cycle – who agree with your premise, but who’s feet are bound by the assumptions of GAD.

    However, in our NICE churches, there are some that have a missional point of view – they will raise the money among friends to GO ON A MISSION for two weeks one summer of their entire lives. How NICE! So, doesn’t that make them missional? (I’m sure you can see my sarcasm).

    Well, that’s what I used to teach and preach – perhaps you can use this to start a discussion at BTS, and see where it goes. You have to provide a diagnostic tool, not just a worn-out challenge. CS Lewis once said -“I’m afraid if we aren’t giving more than we can afford to, we are just like the world in our materialistic affections.” Ralph Winter used to talk about living a wartime lifestyle (as in WW2 – rationing, victory gardens etc) or a peacetime (comfort) lifestyle. I’m asking – Are we in the NICE cycle, or the NECESSARY (missional) cycle?

    Blessings,
    Jim

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