Flowbee, Jesus, and Me: A Catalyst Echo

My hair stylist cancelled my appointment yesterday because of a schedule conflict, and for a few minutes afterward I searched the Internet for the Flowbee, the vacuum-attachment haircutting system that lets you give yourself a buzz cut. (I really, really need a haircut.) Very popular on the infomercials a decade ago, the Flowbee is still manufactured, and if the testimonials are to be believed, still giving great haircuts. But few people are buying them anymore. After a couple of recalls and too many jokes about the product, the Flowbee just isn't selling.

Oddly, the Flowbee reminded me of what Donald Miller said at Catalyst in Atlanta earlier this month. At the pre-conference session, Miller (of Blue Like Jazz and the Campus Confession Booth) pondered the growing consumerism in our society and in our faith. I was prepared for him to deride the consumerist nature of churches, especially megachurches, but I didn't expect this one comment:

We've turned Jesus into a product, and we've become products ourselves. (That's an indirect quote, but it's pretty close to his exact words.)

Our churches are products, he said predictably, and we sell them to church shoppers based of the quality of our programs, the relevance of our preaching, the coolness of our worship, and even the authenticity of our community.

(Louie Giglio's later message on worship echoed this theme, that worship has become a product rather than interpersonal communion with God; we can have superior worship experiences and still be deficient in relationship with God, because it's become all about the worship rather than the One we worship.)

But Miller caught my attention when he said we've turned Jesus into a product - the healer of hurts, the soother of raw feelings, the better-than-a-brother friend. In my part of the world, we'd say he's the WD-40/duct tape combo pack: all you need to fix almost anything. And thus, Jesus has become a product. (Am I guilty of selling Jesus? I wondered, thinking back to my last sermon. Sure, the televangelists with their Scripture key chains and Jesus pins and healing hankies and Protestant holy water are guilty, but am I?)

And Miller stopped me cold when he said we, as believers, have become products.

Is Miller correct? Have we become not trophies of grace, but the by-products of a product-Savior and his product, the church? Are we the fixed, the recalled-and-repaired, the better-than-new, the but-wait-there's-more, and the soon-irrelevant - like so many Flowbees?

I think I don't want to be a product.

But I still need a haircut.

October 21, 2005

Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Rich Tatum

November 02, 2005  5:14am

Hi, Eric, :: yawn :: Just another Emergent aspersion thrown down before the contemporary church. Which church is a product? Which Christians are products? What is a "product" anyway? Sure, it sounds like it must be insulting or somehow thought-provoking, but like much of the Emergent criticism I've come across, drill down and its just more of the "Be different, like me and my friends are" angst. Depending on how the word is used, we are all products. Everything is a product! Products of culture, language, schooling, environment, genetics, God's cosmic roll of the dice (sorry, Einstein), whatever. This doesn't add anything new to the conversation (I'll admit I wasn't there, and my comments don't add much either). It reminds me of the character from "Mystery Men" who was always referred to as so "very mysterious." But, in reality, is just another guy saying nothing special in a special way. Regards, Rich. (Disclaimer: this is a personal post, is my opinion, and does not reflect that of my employer.)

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Chris Stewart

October 29, 2005  6:40pm

What a fascinating spin! I have always desired a cohesion between modern business thought and objective theology based upon the kerygma. Kerygma? You know, that whole "trinity thing" and "virgin birth" and "substitutionary atonement on the cross"-side of Christianity that so many of us seem to forget in our haste for relevance. Donald Miller was at my church in Dallas a couple of months back, but I had no clue who he was so I decided to pass up the opportunity. I wish I hadn't now! Especially since I really wanted to attend Catalyst this year. Enough about me; onto product spin. Christ calls us to be salt and light, and I do believe He mentioned that useless salt and pointless light lose all intrinsic value. It's not enough to be named salt or named light: we must actually fulfill a purpose higher than ourselves. Here's my addition to the post mix: call us products, by-products, or define us by model numbers of any system desired. Unless we're doing our job, which is the evangelization of our individual spheres of influence, we're "outmodes" like the robot characters in a recent CGI flick. I see no problem with the label as long as it means discipler, influencer, Christian. Emergent or not, that's all that really matters in the eternal scheme of things.

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October 24, 2005  3:46pm

I think there should be a healthy balance toward our witness to the non-believer. In John 4:13-15, Jesus spoke to the woman at the well about drinking his eternal water. When Jesus called the fisherman he used the term fishers of men. I think it is appropriate to relate Christ in a way that makes sense to the audience we are going after. I do not think trying to strike a healthy balance will put us in danger of commercializing our Christ.

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Michael Rew

October 22, 2005  12:00am

It could be worse, Eric. You could be a byproduct! A pastor years ago intimated how so many churches have become "centers" where Christians are assembled on an assembly line. Plus some Christians with which I have been acquainted have been so focused on being "yielded vessels for God" that I wonder whether what they really wanted was for their free will to be annihilated so they could be unthinking things. I want to be a vessel, a sheep, a servant, and a friend of God. But most of all, I want to be the Bride of Christ.

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Bernie Dehler

October 21, 2005  4:51pm

"Is Miller correct?" Yup, 100% right on. And a major problem is that Pastors, by and large, will not accept this criticism, because it strikes at the very heart of their modus operandi. For them to change is as inconceivable as a Pharisee accepting Christ, I think (while not likely, many did). Acts 6:7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Thanks for the courage in posting this. I think most Pastors will react negatively towards it. But it desperately needs to be pointed out. Also, for a suggestion, when you point out something that is wrong, try offering a solution, or how it should be done. It's not only a good contrast for learning, but will be more positive and present hope for positive change. ...Bernie http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/247/

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