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Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church
Author: Paul Louis Metzger
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Length: 191 pp.

As a member of a Midwestern megachurch, I was intrigued by Paul Louis Metzger's thesis that the church at large does a poor job of crossing social boundaries, whether based on economy, race, social status, town borders, or mutual interests.  His claim is that the modern church is practicing a form of segregation, and is more concerned with appealing to consumer appetites that living out the Gospel.

Much like Bono, Metzger notes that the church has neglected social issues such as poverty, AIDS, and caring for those who are less fortunate.  He takes on such heady targets as "The Purpose Driven Church," pointedly asking if their purpose includes making room for the Latina maid or the migrant worker in their pews.  He cites C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, in which the young demon is instructed to have his charge become a church shopper, looking for a place where he can feel comfortable and emphasizing a populist, club mentality.

Metzger notes that the church has followed the leadings of those who have attracted large groups of people rather than digging into what they are teaching.  He reminds us that Christ felt more comfortable dealing with fishermen, whores, and tax collectors rather than the religious leaders of the day.  He contends that we often isolate ourselves from certain factions of society based on our own concerns for safety, our fears of being misunderstood, and a lack of comfort in dealing with those who are not like us.  He reminds us that it is our responsibility as Christians to take the gospel into all parts of the world, not just those within our specific demographic to do anything else is to consign segments of our population to Hell.  (Granted, we hope someone else will reach them, but we aren't going to be the ones taking that risk.)

Consuming Jesus is a powerful piece of work.  It critically analyzes the failures of the church without being condemning, and offers real suggestions to fix the problem.  Anyone in church leadership positions, or anyone who has that vague uneasiness about the color (or lack thereof) in their large church should read this, and then make sure that others do the same.

Brian A. Smith
21 April 2008




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