USA (MNN) — A growing church movement in North
America is substituting compassion for consumerism at Christmas. It's called
the "Advent Conspiracy."
Living Water International's Stan Patyrak says it began in 2006 when a coalition of pastors identified the
biggest threat to the American church. "Consumerism is probably one of the biggest threats in the American
church to biblical Christianity, to distort Christianity. Ironically, that rears its ugly head at no
other time more than the season that we celebrate the birth of Christ."
Five churches from across the United
States banded together last year for an "Advent Conspiracy." They
challenged their members to worship more, spend less, give more, and love all.
In other words, they were teaching
American Christians that they shouldn't compete with the consumer impulses of
the culture, but instead align with Christ, worshipping Him in a holistic way.
As part of that, the churches learned that part of saying "yes" to
Jesus means that we say "no" to over-spending. Instead, believers were encouraged to think in
a new way about what it means to give ourselves to others. These first "Advent
Conspiracy" participants learned that they could be transformed by the story of
Advent, knowing that they could give relationally because God gave
It was in the Advent that Jesus entered poverty so we would no longer be poor.
The money saved by giving relationally and rejecting consumerism can change the
lives of people in communities and around the world.
result of last year's experiment, the five participating churches collected
just under half of a million dollars. The majority of the money was given to
Living Water International to help impoverished communities like Chacocente (in
Nicaragua) acquire safe water.
This year, more than one thousand churches and organizations have
already joined the conspiracy for Christmas 2007. Participating groups will take an
offering just before Christmas, made up of the money saved through resisting
materialism, focusing instead on relational giving.
Patyrak says that with these funds, groups like LWI find
ways to love with the love of God. "We tend to really celebrate Christmas in the shopping mall. What would it look like to divert this
spending to fund clean water projects? With the extravagance that's given
though Christmas gifts, compare that to the basic necessity of clean
LWI exists to
demonstrate the love of God by providing desperately-needed clean water and
medical attention, along with the "living water" of the gospel of
Jesus Christ, which alone satisfies the deepest thirst.