Christ in postmodern Albania
Children are not only a most wonderful gift from God but a most welcome distraction from the pressures of modern living. They have a tendency to see things in black and white and are often very perceptive.
One seven-year-old described a towel as ‘the thing you clean your hands on after you have washed them’. Their perception is not always so acute, however, when they want something. I often hear our three-year-old saying, ‘Daddy I need ” – when what she really means is, ‘I want’.
It is disturbing to see our society reflected in a three-year-old. Many people seem unable, or perhaps unwilling, to discern between needs and wants. Multinational corporations cash in on this need-driven culture, and are handsomely rewarded as the masses indulge their insatiable appetites in the endless pursuit of wants.
Even in Albania, people can be seen flocking to the ‘new Mecca’ of this 40% plus Muslim country – the shopping mall! Everything about this new Mecca is designed to make parting with money as pleasurable as possible.
It is disturbing to watch so many gain a sense of self-worth from their latest purchase. People are equating their sense of worth – of who they really are – with the value of their possessions. The more they consume, the better they feel about themselves.
It’s as if spending releases endorphins that dull all sense of life’s meaninglessness. But the ‘fix’ is momentary; it soon needs to be followed by another.
How is the church responding to this? How are we as Christians seeking to educate people about the folly of building bigger barns (Luke 12:16-21)? David Wells puts it like this: ‘Far from challenging this emptiness and futility, evangelical churches have too often been its exemplars – pitching their ‘product’ to the ‘consumers’ and emptying themselves of every vestige of spiritual gravitas as if striving for a serious faith were a failing’.1
In other words, the church is setting its agenda by this ‘buyers market’, and pastors are ‘selling’ to churchgoers’ preferences. Doctrine has been eclipsed by various marketing strategies, because the gospel simply doesn’t sell well. The postmodern mind does not like ‘truth-claims’.
How ought we to respond? People want the things that this world has to offer when what they really need is spiritual renewal – a living and active relationship with Christ.
Therefore it is paramount that the authenticity of the gospel and the truth-claims it makes are not replaced by marketing strategies. We must deepen, or renew, our resolve to do God’s work in God’s way.
It is authenticity in worship and life, not emulation of the latest fad, which will teach consumers the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ – and by God’s grace turn them from the false self-worth of the shopping mall to true self-worth in Christ.
Over this the church in Albania is fighting for its life, just like the church in western Europe.
European Christian Mission (Albania)
1. David Wells,Above all earthly pow’rs: Christ in a postmodern world(Eerdmans, 2006), p.47.