When I was in high school my diet consisted of junk food. Considering I was a typical teenager, that’s not much of a surprise. My lunch money was spent on Hostess cupcakes and Dr. Pepper.
Sometimes I skipped the cupcake and ate chocolate ice cream. Sometimes I skipped the ice cream and ate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. My mom handed me lunch money as I walked out the door and the vending machine possibilities were endless.
If she knew, she probably would have made me pack my lunch, but I was smart enough not to disclose what was on the menu.
As a teenager, I didn’t think about what I was consuming. I never gave much thought to what I put into my stomach other than the fact that it tasted good before it went down the hatch. I also didn’t realize that what I consumed had an impact on what I produced. What did I care? I was seventeen and living my best life.
There’s no way on God’s green earth I could get away with eating like that now. Nor would I want to. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since then, it’s that many things in the physical parallel the spiritual.
And when it comes to consumption, many in the church are living off of spiritual junk food.
This has not only created a crisis in the church, but a cultural crisis as well. Christians have stopped becoming producers and instead they’ve become consumers, strolling through the marketplace of ideas while stocking up on the ideologies of culture that is shaping their worldview.
The real question is: Is Christianity impacting culture or is culture impacting Christianity?
That’s the question I’ve been mulling over in my mind lately. Why does it seem as though the church has lost ground? Why does it seem as though the world dictates to the church the message it should convey?
I believe the answer is in what we, as the church, has become. We’ve changed what we consume and as a result, it’s changed what we produce and how we influence the world in which we live.
What’s the difference between a consumer and a producer?
In reality, we have to be both.
We must consume in order to live and what we produce depends on what we consume. The majority of the church has become consumers of a different meal, and because we consume what culture produces, we’ve stopped making an impact.
For this reason, the church has lost its cutting edge.
We cannot both consume culture and produce in such a way that impacts it. It’s not possible. Culture will never be a sufficient source for the Christian to produce a life that conveys both salt and light.
What Christians of the 21st century may not realize is that Christianity used to be a primary influencer of culture. We impacted every branch of society, including science, art, education, literature, and …. (insert category here).
We used to be the producers, the influencers, the intellects.
So what happened?
Well, that’s the whole point of this article. It’s not so much that we stopped producing. That’s the effect of a much bigger problem. The real issue is that Christians stopped consuming the very thing that made them producers in the first place.
We stopped consuming that which caused us to impact society from a biblical worldview.
We stopped consuming the word of God.
How do we impact culture?
Isn’t that the question many in the church are asking? How do we recover the ground we’ve lost? Is it to “speak the truth in love”? Is it to “preach the word no matter who wants to heart it?” While I don’t disagree with either of these suggestions, I do not think that’s how the church ultimately impacts the world.
And at the moment, I believe the majority of the church is incapable of impacting the world this way. Why? Because the church looks at consumption differently in the 21st century.
There’s a progression, or domino effect, to what has led to the church’s lack of influence in society. And none of it began with not speaking the truth in love. It didn’t even begin with not preaching the word of God.
So what’s the problem?
Focus on the Family gave a startling statistic not too long ago, and they revealed that 4% of Christians have a biblical worldview. That means that only 4% of Christians believe in the fundamentals of the faith as declared through scripture. To put this in its proper perspective, current statistics on religion in America show that 65% of Americans claim Christianity as their religion.
In other words, we are still a majority Christian nation (in word, at least).
But then you must ask yourself why our current culture supports unbiblical views such as abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, as well as other issues we face. If 65% of Americans who claim Christianity had a biblical worldview, they would not condone the very things that contradict what’s in the Bible.
We can’t know how to fix the problem unless we identify it. And identify it we must if we want to win back the culture for Christ. I believe the root of the problem is consumption.
While we cannot assess the global or American church with one blog post, we can examine ourselves and start there. There are three points to look at when it comes to the consumption of the Christian life.
First, are you looking to be “fed”?
This question is an example of what I like to call Christianese. This question is often posed to someone after a church service and applies to teaching or preaching. While I understand what is really being asked (ie, does your church provide biblical teaching that helps you grow spiritually?), this has also led to Christians thinking they can be passive consumers of the message. They come into the church with a knife, fork and bib, mouths open wide, waiting for the pastor to provide spiritual nourishment.
But then what?
Do we know how to prepare our own meals? Just like the body needs proper nourishment, the spirit needs proper nourishment. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy when He said, “Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)
Notice the life and death circumstance of His statement: “Man cannot live on bread alone.” Consumption is not only about what we take in to nourish the physical part of us. If we neglect the spiritual aspect of who we are, we are neglecting a need of the soul.
If we only get our spiritual nourishment from a Sunday morning church service, we are consumers only. We’re looking to be fed. We don’t want to feed ourselves.
Second, you are what you continually eat.
Man will always consume something to try and fill a need of the soul. Again, Jesus said man CANNOT live on bread alone. God made us in such a way that our soul requires nourishment. But that doesn’t mean we will always choose the word of God to fill that need.
The average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phones, and they pick up their phones at least 63 times a day. Studies show that if we spend that same amount of time each day learning a new skill, we would master that skill within about 9 years or less.
That is why Christianity used to be the biggest producer of culture. We are a people of a Book. When we consume the Word daily we become skilled at interpreting it and applying it in our lives. The Word is the key to what impacted the communities of old, which impacted every branch of education, the arts, entertainment … and you get the point.
So, in order to find out if you’re producing in such a way that impacts culture, you need to ask yourself what you continually consume. Because the saying, “You are what you eat” isn’t as accurate as the statement “You are what you continually eat”.
What you consume shapes who you become.
Everyone has a worldview. And everything we consume shapes it. YouTube, social media, literature, entertainment and anything that goes into the mind shapes how we see the world. Worldview matters because how we see the world affects how we see humanity, religion, politics, society and everything we do.
Romans 12:2 tells us not to be confirmed to the patterns of the world. Conformity to the world means we are being shaped by what we consume from culture. And a Christian who spends more time in the world becomes more worldly.
And finally, that leaves us with the last question.
What are you producing?
In reality, we are all consumers and producers. That’s what makes the world go round and keeps humanity cycling through from one generation to the next. But again, we’re not just talking basic survival here.
At some point, Christians stopped throwing their hat into the marketplace of ideas. We stopped influencing culture and culture began producing their own content. Prayer in schools was pushed to the side when the First Amendment was brought to court and slowly changed how education viewed religious influence in school. This began in the early 60’s. The result is an educational system of the 21st century that produces curriculum that teaches our students about sexuality as young as 5.
The entertainment industry produces people like Demi Lovato, or Little Nas X who push pantheism and makes devil worship cool.
I could go on about Disney shaping the worldview of young children with their new and revitalized Cinderella scripts whose fairy god mother is gender neutral.
Where is the Christian influence?
This is going to be hard to swallow (pun intended), but I would dare say many Christians these days are incapable of impacting culture because they are too busy consuming it. The result is the decline of morality, truth and logic in a post Christian society.
In a post-truth culture, it’s hard to gain ground. But that doesn’t mean we can’t.
The problem in the church lies in the lap of every believer. And the answer begins with going back to the very thing we left behind … the word of God. We cannot live without it. And we sure won’t produce in such a way that impacts culture without it.
So, I leave you with a question: “What’s on the menu?” I pray you consume the word of God and remember the life and death repercussions of Jesus’ statement: “Man cannot live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
You can’t live without it. I can’t live without it. And as you can see, culture has been greatly impacted by those who have tried.
Article resources and references: https://techjury.net/blog/how-much-time-does-the-average-american-spend-on-their-phone/