A favorite book from last year- one that inspired our church’s summer conference– is now available electronically for the Kindle and is FREE for the next few days.
Those of you you’ve not read The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani may want to check out my brief review.
For those like myself on whom the allure of the electronic reader is completely lost, I can vouch that the real book is worth the price.
However you read it, this is a book worth owning and returning to regularly for its critique- sometimes painful, always helpful- of the many ways consumerism has affected the American church.
I’ve mentioned The Gospel and Culture Conference here a few times, but it’s worth pointing out again. The conference begins this Friday evening, includes a picnic and session on Saturday evening, and wraps up on Sunday morning. This is New Community’s first attempt at something like this, and I’m glad that Skye Jethani will be our inaugural guest teacher.
We’ve invited a number of Chicago churches to join us for the conference and we’re hopeful this weekend will be a time to meet new friends. Our worship team will open each session and Friday and Saturday will feature a Q&A and refreshments. New Community typically hosts a few summer picnics on Logan Boulevard and our first one will coincide with the conference, Saturday at 6:00. The conference is free and open to anyone. Any Signs of Life readers going to make it?
Our guest teacher, Skye, has recently written The Divine Commodity, though we’d have invited him even if he wasn’t published. I try to have lunch or coffee with Skye every few months because I know I’ll walk a smarter person. Many of us are convinced that Consumerism as a way of life is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus but Skye is one of the few people who is imagining a way for the American Church to be faithful in the midst of this type of culture.
If you’re around Chicago this weekend I hope you’ll join us.
The Divine Commodity: Discovering A Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity gives language to the sinking feeling many ministry folks have as we realize how enmeshed our churches have become with consumer culture. Skye Jethani, a friend and managing editor of Leadership Journal, provides the right balance of cultural analysis, clear insight, and gentle direction to show how the American church has often neglected our identity as the people of God for something more culturally relevant. To be clear, this is not a “how-to” manual; neither is it another book about all that is wrong with our churches. Like others of us, Skye has been tempted to walk away from the many frustrations of the local church but found himself unable to do so. His love for and commitment to the local church (Skye is also a pastor) is what allows us to receive the book’s difficult truths.
The Divine Commodity is organized into nine chapters, each which observe an aspect of consumerism that has infiltrated the church. Filled with stories, cultural artifacts, and Biblical reflection these observations are easily connected to the reader’s own context. Particularly compelling are Skye’s reflections on the life and paintings of Vincent van Gogh as a foil to consumer Christianity. In the Dutch artist’s life we encounter one whose commitment to Christ (he trained to be a pastor) led him to bitterly critique his experience with Christianity and the church. The addition of eleven of van Gogh’s paintings helps us imagine a faith that is completely devoted to the narrow way of Jesus, one that consistently rejects the allure of self-centered faith.
It is the description of an alternative to consumer Christianity that is most commendable. In a chapter about the tendency to place institutions before relationships Skye writes,
What may be needed is a fundamental rethinking of the church within the minds of the members, cultivating the imagination to conceive of the church as a relational community rather than an institutional organization. Beginning on the smallest end of the scale, this means relearning the lost art of friendship.
Analysis combined with imagination is why I’d recommend this book to just about anyone. My only gripe is that the book could be expanded (the 175 pages were easily read over a weekend). I am convinced that until we acknowledge the power our consumer culture holds over the church (and over me!), we will find our thirst unquenched by a faith diluted with consumer ideals. The Divine Commodity points out the primary issue for the church in our day, one that impacts our very identity and mission. Thankfully the book also prompts us to imagine a more satisfying and transforming alternative.