Tivo Tyranny and Preaching to Consumers

I just read about the latest form of oppression: Tivo Tyranny. It's the burden of having recorded too many TV shows, and now finding there's no way you're going to be able to watch them all.

Tivo has a feature that automatically records preselected shows week after week, or day after day, and that's created for some people a backlog that they'll never get through. The convenience of easily recording something now for viewing later has produced it's own overstuffed feeling.

It's just the latest example that, yes, we live in a "consumer culture." And whenever we consume, whether goods, products, or services, we're inclined to overindulge. And each new convenience, promising new kinds of freedom, can lead to its own form of bondage.

How can preachers effectively address people who are surrounded and saturated by their consumer culture?

Next week, this will be the topic as Leadership hosts a live interview at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego. And you can pose questions to the panelists, including:

John Ortberg, teaching pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, and author of lots of books, including "The Life You've Always Wanted" (Zondervan).

Efrem Smith, pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, and author of "The Hip-Hop Church" (InterVarsity Press).

Doug Pagitt, pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis, and author of "Preaching Re-Imagined" (Zondervan).

Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, and author of "Pastor: a reader for ordained ministry" (Abingdon).

Most people, upon hearing the phrase "Preaching in a Consumer Culture," think about sermons on money. That's certainly one area we'll include in the interview, but the spiritual issues at stake in a consumer culture go far beyond putting a percentage of your income into the offering plate.

What would YOU like to ask the panelists? Post a response with your questions, and we'll not only post them online, but some of them will find their way into the interview, and then, into the pages of Leadership, when we publish this interview in the Summer issue of the journal.

We hope to see you there, or stay tuned here as we'll be blogging from the convention.

February 16, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 12 comments

Dave Vander Laan

February 20, 2006  11:39am

My questions are: 1. Historically speaking, how has the Church found itself reacting to culture instead of being proactive? In other words, what things have taken place in Church history to cause a response of checking which way the cultural winds are blowing (and then providing 'church programs' or 'worship experiences' which feed into consumerism) instead of staying the Biblical course of being 'salt and light'? 2. The Reformer John Calvin urged Christians to reclaim culture for the purposes of God's Kingdom. How did the church get off track so it's now the other way around? 3. I constantly wrestle with the notion of 'preaching to meet the needs' of the people who have called me to be their minister. At some point in the last 12 years of ministry I read something by Will Willimon about keeping God at the center of every sermon. With the 'what's in it for me' mind set so prevalent in our churches, how can preachers drive home the point that only God can ultimately satisfy? 4. What would developing and applying missiology in our churches (being equipped to be sent out) look like as we ponder the consumer 'scratch/itch' syndrome?

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Luke Britt

February 19, 2006  3:34pm

I think that preaching the gospel removes the option of consumerism. The very presence of giving is in the gospel. We aren't presenting the gospel for purchase, but rather proclaiming the gospel for salvation.

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Sam Andress

February 19, 2006  2:54am

Has preaching become a form of "psychologizing" religiously inclined people in a way that affirms their desire to consume? Does the role of preaching in the Scriptures a subversive one, and if so, how do we recover this in a typical "seeker-sensitive" church? Hope to get some good responses! - Sam

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Rich Tatum

February 18, 2006  3:45am

How do we call our churches away from a life of information- and entertainment-overload when we are overloaded ourselves? What spiritual disciplines speak best to this issue of overload and the tyranny of infotainment? How do we best approach the task of preaching and avoid "packaging" it as yet more infotainment when culture at large is training our churches to expect this kind of packaging for everything they consume? Should preaching be more entertaining just to compete? Regards, Rich BlogRodent

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Taylor Burton-Edwards

February 17, 2006  7:59pm

So far I've seen here a lot of conversation starters around preaching (either as instruction/feeding, or evangelism) and some reference to "eating." I suppose my question might be to what degree the panelists might see worship centered around the Eucharist (Word and Table) as both formational and counter-cultural for us and the world around us. Why? Consumer culture– and even much "generational theory"– is ultimately the product of marketing– a strategy which has effectively retribalized us all into different "interest groups" that both describe us, and as we own them for ourselves, actually do tend to separate and segregate us from one another. Eucharist is all about the big table, where none of those old or neo-tribal differences separate us any more, and where preaching is about preparing us to eat there, and having eaten to take what we've encountered to live out in and confront the world. At that table we do not eat much, but in what we do eat, we find more than enough– nothing less than the grace and power and presence of Jesus Christ. Eucharistic consumerism, then... what do they (and y'all) think of that? Peace in Christ

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February 17, 2006  11:02am

My suggested questions are: 1. How can one focus firstly on God and his Kingdom in the context of affluence, quantity of options and distractfullness? What are the necessary disciplines for that? 2. What are the principles and patters that people of Scripture who lived in contexts of affluence but remained centered on God, like David and Joseph of Egypt, model for us today?

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Mark Goodyear

February 17, 2006  10:18am

Consumerism is so entrenched in our society, sometimes I find my church approaching God and worship as just another product or service. We consume God. We consume each other, even. Can there be such a thing as healthy consumerism in our relationship with God and His Church? How can we approach Jesus with pure hearts, setting aside our ulterior motives?

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February 17, 2006  9:42am

I have 4 questions What do you guys personally do to keep your communication fresh? How often you you preach in your church during the year? What % is that for your church? How can a person continually resource the preaching ministry of the church? Nearly every week we have new people come to our church and nearly every week we see people make a decision towards a closer friendship with Christ. We use the arts, comedy, video, props and other means of communication. (so no one misunderstands, we use the bible as our sole authority andthese other things to bring home truths we want to last.) Finally, would you guys agree that the real impact of preaching is accumulative? It seems that one sermon does not change a life but the stude we did in Romans made a huge difference.

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February 17, 2006  9:23am

In our church, consumerism for oneself is recognized as a problem (somewhat), but providing "the best for my kids" is almost beyond criticism. How do you address the kid-centric lifestyles of so many of our families?

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February 17, 2006  9:20am

I find it easier to preach about money than about entertainment. How do you speak wisely and well to the spiritual issues related to amusing ourselves?

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