Skye Jethani is an American author, speaker, and the managing editor of Leadership journal, a magazine and online resource published by Christianity Today International.
== Quotes ==
=== The Divine Commodity: Discovering A Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity (2009, Zondervan) ===
Has the contemporary church been so captivated by the images and methods of the consumer culture that it has forfeited its sacred vocation to be a countercultural agent of God's kingdom in the world?History has shown syncretism to the culture is a chronic ailment of the church.We live, and move, and have our being in a consumer cosmos. The global economy and interconnection of markets and resources means every time we eat a meal, listen to music, put on clothing, or read a book, we are being consumers.We must learn to exist in a consumer empire but not forfeit our souls at its altar.Wanting to obey Christ but lacking his imagination, we reinterpret the mission of the church through the only framework comprehendible to us--the one we've inherited from our consumer culture.Sociologists can no longer differentiate the lives of Christians from non-Christians, or the behavior of churches from corporations. We have abandoned the vision that Christianity is an alternative way.Consumerism is the dominant worldview of North Americans. As such, it is competing with the kingdom of heaven for the hearts and imaginations of God's people.Consumer Christianity, while promising to strengthen our souls with an entertaining faith, has left us malnourished with an anemic view of God, faith, church, and mission.Our spiritual imaginations have fallen asleep on the comfortable mattress of the consumer culture, and before any remedy for the church can be prescribed our dormant imaginations must be stirred from their slumber.Learning to see the world as it truly is - saturated with the presence and love of God - should be the essence of Christian discipleship, or what many call spiritual formation.Since the Enlightenment's coronation of knowledge, generations of Christians had brains full of biblical knowledge and doctrine, but their lives showed little evidence of the transformation Jesus called forth in his Sermon on the Mount.If we are to effectively make disciples of Jesus Christ and teach them to obey everything he commanded, we cannot neglect the imagination.Ironically, it is often our zeal to protect our faith that leads to its loss.Have we clothed our faith with the forms of our American culture to the point that our Christianity has morphed into something entirely different - a folk religion altogether consumerist in spirit and content?By yielding its imagination to the forms around it, has the church, like ancient Israel, lost the ability to be an alternative people of God?Rather than pursuing our calling to present a vision of a world filled with God's power and love, the contemporary church merely presents the world as a two-dimensional facsimile of the consumer culture, albeit with a Jesus fish imprint.The spiritual life must find its origin in silence.Finding true silence requires more than quieting our surroundings. It also means quieting our souls. This is the real dilemma of living in a wordy world.We've been conditioned to avoid silence at all costs lest we be confronted with our own inner chaos.Job learned the wisdom of silence before God, but it appears many Christians have abandoned this value in our wordy world.We have a certainty about God and his ways that leads us to replace the mystery of faith with manageable spiritual formulas.The abundance of our definitive words about God shows that we don't view him as a great mystery anymore, but as a sterile calculation without ambiguity or obscurity.In a commodity culture we have been conditioned to believe nothing carries intrinsic value. Instead, value is found only in a thing's usefulness to us, and tragically this belief has been applied to people as well.Modern people may express outrage at the horrors of the African slave trade or the Holocaust, but in truth the commodification of human beings that made those atrocities possible is more prevalent today than ever before.The reduction of even sacred things into commodities explains why we exhibit so little reverence for God. In a consumer worldview he has no intrinsic value apart from his usefulness to us.Commodification has led most people to view God as a device to be used rather than an all-powerful Creator to be revered.Connected yet alienated - that is the paradox of our global digital culture. We have access to so many things, yet we are increasingly incapable of seeing those things, or ourselves, in any meaningful context.The god of Consumer Christianity does not inspire awe and wonder because he is nothing more than a commodity to be used for our personal satisfaction and self-achievement.Our culture has confined our imaginations with an uninspiring vision of God. He's been reduced to a manageable deity of consumable proportions.We need to see beyond our culture; we need to peer through the bars of commodification and alienation and catch a glimpse of a God far larger than our circumstances.Our imaginations can throw off the shackles of consumerism if we start to feel the infinite once again.In a culture that insists on making God small, we can counteract the trend by focusing our imaginations on what is big.How might our perception of God be changed if we turned off the radio station for a few minutes and walked in a thunderstorm?What might we learn about God and ourselves if our Bible study group gathered outside to stare at the stars in silence?It is recognizing God's eternality that liberates our minds from their consumer inclination to reduce him to a commodity.Maybe God is waiting for us to be silent long enough so he may begin painting a new picture in our imaginations, to begin transforming our image of a manageable deity into one that can truly inspire.Divine agnosticism, the sort I'm advocating, affirms the existence of God but then acknowledges our human inability to fully grasp his infinite nature.Silence can shatter the trivialized deity that has occupied our imaginations and provide God the canvas to begin a new work in our souls.Consumerism has created a culture that values style over substance, image over reality, and perception over performance.In a consumer culture "incarnating Christ" no longer carries an expectation of Christians loving God and their neighbors; but rather the perpetual consumption of Christian merchandise.Paralleling the corporate shift away from manufacturing goods to manufacturing brands, Christianity in North America has drifted from a faith of substance to a faith of perception.Approaching Christianity as a brand explains why the majority of people who identify themselves as Christians live no differently than other Americans yet spend enormous amounts of money on Christian products.Christ's true people are branded with love.Ministries that focus on manufacturing spiritual experiences may actually be retarding spiritual growth by making people experience-dependent.When we expect transformation to occur through external experiences, we are opting for an inferior model of spiritual formation.The alternative to prefabricated-experience spirituality is what has been practiced by Christians for centuries: prayer.Our longing to pass through the gates of eternity will not be satisfied by any external experience, but by the dwelling of God within.We have all swallowed the cultural punch that believes institutions are both the means and the end of God's mission in the world.Advertising has formed us to give our affection not only to the products we consume, but also to the personified corporations that supply them.The personification of institutions in our culture means the institutional church, rather than the flesh-and-blood people of God, has become the vehicle of God's mission in the world. This is salvation via institution, paradise via programs.Jesus says God isn't like a gumball machine; he's more like the wind: unpredictable, uncontrollable, no more containable than wind in a bottle.Consumer Christianity seeks to construct programs to capture God's power and produce predetermined outcomes, rather than surrender to the mysterious movement of God's grace which, like the wind or fire, is beyond our control.Properly understood, the church is not an institution. It is the community of Jesus' followers on earth - men, women, an children filled with God's Spirit, living in communion with him, one another, and the world.The influence of consumerism has led us to confuse institutions for people, means for the mission, and programs for the Spirit's power.Let's break free from artificial relationships with unfeeling, uncaring, unloving institutions that cannot contain the unpredictable wind of God's Spirit, and focus instead on building soulish connections with real people filled with the breath of God.In less than a century, Christians have gone from opposing over-consumption at Christmas to demanding it be done in Christ's name alone.Scripture champions contentment and self-control, not the endless pursuit of personal desires. Teaching and modeling these increasingly un-American values is not a high priority in most churches.To believe that employing consumer methods in the church will produce spiritually mature Christians is delusional thinking akin to expecting a dog to hatch from a chicken's egg.Scripture and tradition tell us that formation into the likeness of Christ, also known as spiritual maturity, is not achieved by always getting what we want.The dilemma posed by consumerism is not the endless manufacturing of desires, but the temptation to settle for desires far below what we were created for.We do not desire too much, but too little.Self-denial, the surrendering of immediate desires, is a prerequisite of the Christian life. This is noticeably absent in the gospel of Consumer Christianity.Jesus isn't interested in negotiating. He knows that death, the surrendering of our immediate desires, is how we can take hold of an even greater joy.Jesus is offering us a holiday at the sea, but we must be willing to abandon our mud pies in the slums.The transformation of our desires happens like all spiritual transformation - by following in the steps of Jesus. In a word, I believe the answer is suffering.The "trials of ordinary existence" are the divine curricula for spiritual maturity.Disciplines teach us to overcome the temptation to gratify our immediate desires so that we may attain a higher one.We are more than our base desires, and our lives are not sustained by gratifying them.By conducting a media fast - turning off the television, radio, and computer - we stop the influx of poison that keeps us buying and desiring more.Whether by trials of circumstance or by disciplines of choice, we cannot escape our calling to suffer with Christ.Although the forces of consumerism would have us remain forever in Neverland by running after every product promising to satisfy our desire and alleviate our suffering, the invitation of Christ is precisely the opposite.
== External links ==
Leadership journal website
Skye Jethani bio
Skye Jethani blog
Full summary of The Divine Commodity