Reordering Our Desires in a Culture of Consumption
by Michael Frost
Driven more by desire than by knowledge, if we as Christians wish to please God we need to rightly order our desires in such a way as to give him the glory and honor in our lives. In his book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, James K. A. Smith says that we “don’t inhabit the world as thinkers or cognitive machines … [G]iven the sorts of animals we are, we pray before we believe, we worship before we know—or rather, we worship in order to know.” Smith points out how our lives are already shaped by liturgical triggers or practices that reinforce our desires, whether they be going to a shopping mall for entertainment, checking social media at regular intervals in our day, or giving our all to a corporate job. He calls us to ask ourselves whether we’re happy with Facebook establishing those rituals or whether we wish to take control ourselves and put around us a series of practices that reorder our desires, placing God as foremost.
As much as some might scoff at this practice these days, our parents’ daily “quiet time” was such a ritual. Considered quaint today, it nonetheless established the Word of God as primary in their life. I’m not necessarily suggesting a return to that form, but I am asking what rituals shape your life by imposing prompts in your life to help you rightly reorder your desires. The quiet time did in fact do that for many generations. For devout Catholics, daily and weekly Mass does that, as do the rites of confessions and absolution. I fear that for evangelical Protestants there has been such an abandonment of bodily forms of worship and liturgy that we have thrown the baby out with the holy water (sorry). You see, liturgy doesn’t only provide an avenue for us to honor or acknowledge God’s worth, as important as that is; it is also a kind of imposed spiritual scaffolding that assists in developing resistance to our excarnate culture. As Lee Camp says, “To pray good prayers regularly, not in rote recitation but in earnest sincerity, opens one to profound renewal.”
Liturgy is a kind of imposed spiritual scaffolding that assists in developing resistance to our excarnate culture.
Protestants today, influenced as they are by charismatic and Pentecostal forms of worship, have tended to reduce worship and liturgy to mere singing (in practice, rather than in theory). But the English word worship can be applied appropriately to both the ideas of homage and service. It’s right that we sing adoration to God, paying homage to him, but it is empty if it is not accompanied by a life of service to match. Developing liturgical practices as ways of honoring God and building the framework for a life of rightly ordered desires is essential for effective discipleship. As Tom Sine says, “We will need to aggressively work for the re-monking of the church to enable followers of Jesus Christ to intentionally set the focus and rhythm of their lives out of biblical calling instead of cultural coercion.”*
Michael Frost is a leading voice in the international missional church movement and frequent speaker at international conferences. He is an expert in church planting and cofounded the Forge Mission Training Network with Alan Hirsch. The author of more than a dozen books, Frost is vice principal of Morling College and the founding director of the Tinsley Institute, a mission study center located at Morling College in Sydney, Australia.
This text is taken from the epilogue, “Christ in Us and We in Christ” of Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement by Michael Frost. Copyright 2014 by Michael Frost. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, USA.
* Tom Sine, as cited in Heather Wraight, ed., They Call Themselves Christians (London: Christian Research/LCWE, 1998), p. 109.