Wealth and Discipleship in Affluent America
The question addressed by this dissertation may be stated as follows: How do wealth and affluence affect individual and communal Christian discipleship? In response, we propose that while wealth and affluence provide some discipleship opportunities, there are many more dangers and risks to Christian discipleship connected to wealth and affluence. To be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the midst of affluence, people must be aware of its dangers, and have a church home committed to wrestling with the challenges together. In Chapter 1, the ministry challenge is described through the narrative account of church members and a description of the ministry context in which this dissertation was written. After defining what wealth and affluence mean for the purposes of this study, we will document and discuss the challenge of being affluent disciples of Jesus Christ. The second chapter highlights the discussion of wealth and discipleship in the Old and New Testaments. While creation is given as a blessing, to love one's neighbor with one's affluence is intimately connected to one's love of God in Scripture. To separate the two causes disobedience to God, and leads the disciple to wander away from their Christian faith. Chapter 3 discusses the views on the relationship between wealth and Christian discipleship from the Post-Apostolic church to the Protestant Reformation. Chapter 4 shows the social impact of wealth and affluence on individuals and societies. The resources attached to affluence, while creating great opportunities, can also cause stress, heightened self-interest, and an insulation and isolation from others. The fifth chapter describes three broad movements in American Christianity that represent current views of the relationship between affluence and Christian discipleship: Christian Commerce, Christian Prosperity, and Christian Equality. The concluding chapter explores the implications of this study for wealthy Christians and for the church ministering in affluent America.