Consumerism and the American Dream

To help people trade in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.

This is the mission statement behind the work I do every day for RightNow, Bluefish TV, and Small Group Trader.

Our passion is to create Traders. A trader is a new kind of missionary not defined by geography but by a resolve to: Choose Daily, Hate Injustice, Work as Worship, and Act Swiftly by using his or her time, skills and money to impact the world for Christ.

Our 3 strategies for making traders is to inspire church leaders, transform small groups, and coach individuals.

As a writer and editor on our team for our Bible study curriculum, articles, and more, my role in our ministry is fleshed out mainly in inspiring church leaders and transforming small groups. I have to tell you though that every day, I’m challenged and inspired by our mission here. In a culture that is all about consumerism, self-focused leadership, and “what’s in it for me?” (yep in church culture too), I’ve been challenged to really consider what the American Dream means in my personal life.

The truth is that the American Dream was once about opportunity, but it has evolved into a “more” and “me” way of life. More house, more car, more money, more everything. And I have to regularly ask myself, do those things control me? Even in the smaller things like getting a Starbucks drink, buying clothes, or household things, I’m becoming more aware of my motives and realizing that sometimes I just buy things because I can or maybe even because I feel entitled to.

But through a process, I really desire change and to trade in those pursuits in order to give my life away for the sake of other people and for the gospel. And this is no easy task because I’m so s-e-l-f-i-s-h and sometimes I love my agenda more than people. I think when we truly grasp all that is at stake when we cling tightly to the American Dream, our lives are changed and we can’t go back. And life is just too short to live it for ourselves.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have both traded in time, comfort, and sleep to provide meals and community activities to our apartment residents every week and through that experience, I learned more than ever what it means to trade in my life. Since I’ve tasted what being a trader is about, I don’t really want to live life any other way. But I recognize I will always need God’s help in order to be a trader.

Have you thought about the idea of being a “trader”? Are you trading in anything right now or would like to in the future?

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5 Ways to Fight Consumerism this Christmas

Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions (Wikipedia). Consumerism reigns like a proud King in America. He’s captured hearts. Chained families to debt. Caused divorce. And has crept into churches.

But that’s not all. Consumerism is mainly an issue of the heart— the flesh’s desire for more, and a failure to trust in God to provide all things.

Here are five practical ways I’m trying to fight consumerism this Christmas:

1.) Remember former debt. It wasn’t a fun experience a few years ago paying off around $700.00 of credit card debt from Christmas time. (Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we cut our credit cards up so they no longer tempt us).

2.) Pray for a spirit-led shopping experience. Before I went out the other day I prayed that God would help me decide what I needed to get vs. what I wanted to get for other people. I  believe that prayer and being led by the Spirit helps keep me from over-spending.

3.) Accumulate experiences, not possessions (thanks Mark Batterson). I’ve tried to put relationships and time together with those closest to me in my life above accumulating stuff and things that don’t last.

4.) Be in authentic community. I’ve surrounded myself with friends who will ask me the hard questions. And they know our budget. While they don’t ask about this all the time, I know I have to be ready if they do.

5.) Give to those you know who are in need and love on them. This Christmas, we’ll be giving away some of the resources God’s given to us to certain family members who are struggling. Sometimes I think I’m only doing “good” if I give to a charity or other organization, but if a family member is in need- he or she really is who takes precedence.

Above all, the gospel is what transforms our hearts and keeps us from being led away by the desire for more. I’m thankful that as I daily surrender to the Spirit’s control, I can be victorious in the constant battle where consumerism tries to be King.

Have you thought of a plan of attack for fighting consumerism in the upcoming days?

Review: The Trouble with Paris DVD Study

paris3We often live in light of the statement, “I will be happy when…” Being immersed in Western culture, we can’t deny the heavy influence of consumerism on our lives. In The Trouble with Paris DVD study, Mark Sayers communicates relevant truth to teens, young adults, and adults across the board in way I’ve never seen before.

Filled with trendy and engaging motion graphics and video, Mark hits on three main points when it comes to reality: Hyper reality, Reality, and God’s Reality. Most of us live in hyper reality or have been influenced by it in some way. This is the life we dream of where it’s all about “me”. There’s no work—only pleasure, fun, vacation… and no pain.  This is a world the media has created (in ads, shows, movies) and because it invades so much of our lives, we often don’t want what’s real anymore. We’d rather buy that product that will add meaning to our lives. But the fact remains that it’s still a plastic promise.

The truth is that reality is far from hyper reality. Life just isn’t neatly wrapped up like it is at the end of a show or movie. Conflict often lingers way after the credits roll and injustice, war, poverty, and death still exist whether we deny it or not. Awkward silence still pervades, forcing us to face the emptiness and loneliness we sense in our hearts.

God’s reality, however, is better. He has given us glimpses of heaven on this side of earth: genuine friendships, a wonderful vacation experience, marriage, laughter, the beauty in nature and much more. We must then place meaning under His reality. So to do that we need to have a biblical view of God’s reality and how we fit into His story.

Mark Sayers portrays God’s reality with creative, cartoon illustrations in how God came to redeem all of creation. I’ve never seen the biblical account quite like this before! (you’ll just have to see it)

You’ll do your youth, young adult, and even adult ministry a disfavor by not showing the truths in this DVD and then teaching from it. I am recommending this product to people who have been shaped by consumerism and the media (and that’s every American!)

Review any product you’d like on SmallGroupExchange.com and get The Trouble with Paris for FREE!

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