Throwing off consumerist Christianity

This summer, I had the privilege of spending a month in Africa. The bulk of my time was spent at an Iris global ministry base in South Africa called Footprints. For those of you who have not heard of Iris, they are a charity founded by Heidi and Rolland Baker, a ministry which has planted over 10,000 Churches. They are famous for seeing God move in extraordinary power; the miraculous is an everyday reality.

I went out to Footprints with this in mind. There was a bit of me that thought that if I did my pilgrimage to Africa, pilgrimage to a site where God’s presence moves in power, then my faith would be sorted. All I needed, or so I told myself, was a tangible sign of God, a miracle which would validate my faith. Doubt would run away and I would be invincible.

Arriving at the base, it became clear that life wasn’t quite as glamorous as I might have imagined. Given a shovel, I had a snappy introduction into the less talked-about side of missionary life. Turned out that here, as in the rest of the world, the mundane makes up the majority of life. We worked hard to help them improve the base – manually mixing concrete without a cement mixer is harder work than it sounds!

Having been imagining a crazy introduction to power evangelism, there was initially a bit of me that was disappointed that my trip was instead going to require hard graft and a servant heart. Three weeks later and having had some time to reflect, however, I am glad that it was this way.

The truth is that this last month has given me a glimpse of what the gospel is really about. In the West we can have such a pre-occupation with signs and wonders – partially because we see so few – that we can warp Jesus’ priorities. We miss out on love. Forgetting that the greatest commandments are all about love; we model our faith around consumerism, looking only to what we can experience rather than what we can give.

I spoke to a number of people while away who had seen amazing miracles. Each of them shared something while giving testimony, saying that miracles are great, but what is most exciting is the transformation of lives. Looking not at divine fireworks, their focus was entirely outward, broken with compassion for the poor. It was an incredible challenge to me. So many of Jesus’ miracles are preceded by the phrase, ‘He had compassion on them’, yet somehow I have always seemed to miss this. The attitude of these amazing people highlighted how wrong my focus had been.

A ministry which one day heals the blind and the next cuts the toenails of a sixty-year-old man is modelling Christianity as it should be: every action rooted in love, it poses a challenge for our generation. Are we willing to go to those living in poverty who are marginalised, not to secure trophies but just out of love? Are we willing to give all we are in surrender to Jesus, even if that means getting dirty? Are we willing to throw off consumerist Christianity, and have our hearts broken for those in poverty? It is when we are that we will begin to see change.

This was published by Tearfund’s Rhythms page in October.

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