Douglas D. Webster, Selling Jesus: What’s Wrong with Marketing the Church, 78-81.
If we step back and look at American culture, it’s easy to conclude that it is materialistic, self-centered and individualistic. These characteristics raise an important question: What kind of felt needs will be stimulated in the age of entertainment?
The average American household is saturated by television and sports. What does the church need to become in order to compete effectively with frantic schedules, work pressure and leisure amusements?
Parenting is always a challenge, but especially when it comes to meeting one’s children’s felt needs. I am faced with the uncomfortable and unenviable task of discerning between genuine needs and selfish needs. I would love to give my three children everything they ask for, but few people — not even my kids themselves — would judge me a good father if I did that. If eating, sleeping, working and cleaning were left to my young children’s discretion, without any parental direction, our home would be a total disaster. If peer pressure, television ads and self-interest were allowed to dictate the need-meeting in our household, in no time we would be spoiled, self-centered and broke.
What my children really need from me is the ability to discern between momentary pleasure and long-term happiness. They need help in disciplining their lives, deferring gratification and deciding what is right. Much of what they want may get in the way of what they need. They need the example of parents who turn to Christ to meet their deep-seated spiritual needs and human aspirations. Ginny and I have the task of weaning them from superficial, self-centered felt needs and preparing them to deal with their own significant needs and the needs of others through Christ and through responsible, mature behavior.
Being a parent involves daily work in this area. We are not just meeting needs; we are working at defining needs. There is a lot of discerning and discarding to be done.
What holds true for children is also true for adults. The needs we feel most keenly may be trivial or artificial, induced by a culture that is seriously devoted to treating us like consumers every minute of the day. Even when our felt needs are concerned with important matters, such as where to live and work, they may still marginalize more fundamental needs, such as the need to know God. . . .
We have grown accustomed in our market-driven culture, to yoking relational well-being with material well-being. Like the proverbial monkey whose hand is trapped in the cookie jar because it is unwilling to release its grip on its precious find, Americans are trapped by their materialistic dependencies. Barna predicts, “We will remain a society struggling with self-doubt and low self-esteem. As technological advances and the deterioration of social skills continue, Americans will feel increasingly isolated . . . . Our dominant obstacle to emotional attachments will be our fear of being hurt and our unwillingness to sacrifice material comforts or leisure experiences in exchange for new relationships. Psychological counseling services will boom in the 90's, as people struggle with issues of self-worth, loneliness and control.
It’s not surprising that in a consumer-oriented culture the deep-seated spiritual longing for transcendence is scaled down to a materialistic quest for success. For many Americans, the fear of God is nothing compared to the fear of personal failure. Job security means more than eternal security. People who shrug their shoulders at the thought of divine judgment cringe at the thought of cancer or AIDS.
In the nineties, the human search for meaning and significance is translated into a restless quest for excitement and escape. The greatest danger facing the modern psyche is not nihilism but boredom. Qualities honored in the past — stability, continuity and tradition — are exchanged for sensationalism, stimulation and excitement. Today’s hunger and thirst for righteousness are nothing compared to the insatiable appetite for entertaining distractions.