Thinking Out Loud

August 24, 2013

The Commodification of Christianity

Many times here I’ve referred to Illinois pastor and speaker Skye Jethani who also works for Leadership Journal and is responsible for this blog’s Wednesday Link List becoming part of the Out of Ur website over the course of the summer.  You can follow his blog at Skyebox.

Skye has a forthcoming book, Futureville and his most current book is With… Re-imagining the Way You Relate To God which I reviewed here. However, his first book, The Divine Commodity kept beckoning to me at the local Christian bookstore, and with a lighter summer reading schedule, I decided this would be a good time.

The Divine CommoditySkye’s passion — and if you hear him co-hosting on the Phil Vischer podcast you already know this — is that we in North America and Western Europe live in so saturated a consumer culture that it is tainting our view of what it means to follow Jesus and distorting our expectations from local churches. While untangling ourselves from this mindset isn’t easy, it has to begin with an awareness of the mess we’re in, and that’s where The Divine Commodity shines.

But as the salesman on TV says, ‘But wait… there’s more!’ The Divine Commodity also has a running metaphor running throughout each chapter pertaining to the life and work of artist Vincent Van Gogh. There are also a few color pages of pieces referred to in the book. Typically, this isn’t the type of writing that attracts me, but the art appreciation lesson truly fits here. Van Gogh also recognized that in the church of his day, something was missing; something was off course but as the salesman on TV says, ‘Your mileage may vary,’ in other words how each of responds to the consumerism prevalent in the modern church will be different.

Unfortunately, with many published writings, the theme of lament leads to books which radiate a certain negativity, but Skye Jethani doesn’t leave room for that here. While it’s true that we’ve adopted the ways of major corporations — including corporate branding — Jethani offers an argument that is criss-crossed with references to early Church history as well as contemporary authors that makes this very positive, encouraging reading. Having turned the last page of the book just hours ago, I plan to immediately start back into chapter one in order to be able to articulate his passion and concern on this with others.

My personal belief is that Skye Jethani is a bit of a diamond in the rough, and that as God continues to use his ministry, this 2009 book will get rediscovered and its somewhat prophetic message will be more fully appreciated. To watch a 30 minute sermon of Skye speaking on the closing day of the CRU (formerly Campus Crusade) staff conference, click here.

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