Providing gospel-centered resources to mobilize the church for global orphan care.


Abide Interview with Jared Wilson (Part 1)

by Dan Cruver Published Jun 21, 2010

Jared Wilson, author of Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior, graciously agreed to do a two-part interview with me about his great new Bible study entitled, Abide (Jared blogs at The Gospel-Driven Church). If you are interested in exploring more deeply the rhythms of kingdom living in a consumeristic culture, let me encourage you to pick up this study. I found it to be an insightful look at what it means practically to daily abide in Christ.

I intentionally asked him a few questions that focus on applying the insights of his study to the evangelical orphan care movement.

Your book has much to say about the influence that our consumer culture has upon us as Christians. How would you describe its impact upon the being and doing of today’s evangelical church? In other words, is the influence of consumer culture hindering us from being the church, and, if so, how?

Yes, consumer culture has enormous impact on the evangelical church, and the “root” way it hinders us from being the church is how it appeals to and feeds our innate self-centeredness. Consumer culture urges us to see ourselves at the center of the universe. From self-service to self-help, everything about consumer culture makes convenience, quickness, and comfort idols that are difficult not to worship. And of course the more self-centered we are, the less inclined we’ll be to see the great need of experiencing the gospel community of the church. And consumer culture affects the “doing” of the church, as well, which is fairly evident in the way many churches not only don’t subvert consumerism but actually orient around it and cater to it. From some of the more egregious forms of marketing to the way church services are designed to the way many preachers prepare the messages, the chief concern appears to be to keep the customers satisfied.

Over the past 5-7 years many churches have awakened to their God-given responsibility to care for orphans. It’s been very encouraging to see so many churches begin doing what they should be doing in this area. What do think are some of the dangers in our consumer culture that may hinder our churches from caring for orphans over the long haul?

Caring for orphans is not convenient. Adoption is not cheap, nor is it as impressive to neighbors as a new car or boat. But deeper than that, caring for orphans — and cultivating a culture of adoption in our churches — requires Christian communities that are more tightly knit than the average acquaintanceships that pass for fellowship in a lot of churches. As consumer culture dominates a church’s ethos, community suffers. And when community suffers, the support structure of encouragement, sharing of time and resources, etc. necessary for a strong culture of adoption becomes weak.

I believe our consumer culture can manifest itself both in irreligious (e.g. prodigal son) and religious (e.g. elder brother) ways. It seems to me that at the core of consumer culture is the desire to create, form, or control our own identity (i.e., how others perceive us), and there are both irreligious and religious ways to do this. As Christians, then, we may be tempted to think that since we are actively involved in caring for orphans, we are not being influenced by our consumer culture. Do you think caring for orphans can be a manifestation of consumer culture’s influence?

It absolutely can be, and I think we see this most visibly in the parallels between the cache of celebrity adoptions (like Angelina Jolie’s and Sandra Bullock’s) and the near idolatry of celebrity Christian families, like the ones many Christians follow on reality television. Adoption is great. But if our impulse to it is driven by “keeping up with the homeschooling Joneses” or any other non-gospel measure it is essentially legalism or self-worship. We can turn adoption into another form of accumulation for the sake of image, but of course what we are consuming in those instances is infinitely more precious than consumer goods. At the same time, though, I’d say any Christian family can make idols of their kids, whether they’re adopted or not. I don’t know that consumer culture poses more dangers for adopting families than anybody else. We all just need to be rooted in the Word of God and driven by glory for God and passion for his gospel. Which, by the way, is why I’m so thankful for organizations like Together 4 Adoption and the like. The new adoption movements in the evangelical church right now seem to really “get” the theological foundations of adoption, and I think this makes for a stronger and more God-honoring culture of orphan care, which has had wonderful implications for other aspects of “least of these” ministries (the sex trade, slave labor, sweat shop kids, the “witch” children in Africa, etc.).

How does Scripture protect us from both the religious and irreligious manifestations of consumer culture’s influence in our lives?

The two halfs of the gospel truth are embedded and repeated throughout all the Scriptures. You can’t turn anywhere in the Bible without encountering the need to repent of our sin and be captured by God’s glory. When we stray from the Bible, everything gets fuzzy. The grounding of the gospel — that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us — is the antidote for all licenses and legalisms. We need the Bible continually because we need this reminder continually.

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