While many Christian leaders campaign to keep Christ in Christmas by
going after retailers who use the words “Happy Holidays” instead of
“Merry Christmas,” a group of pastors are waging a different kind of
Now in its fourth year as a rising movement, Advent Conspiracy
challenges church members across the nation to fight against the
commercialization of Christmas by replacing consumption with
In 2005, Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community in
Portland, Ore., and his pastor friends were privately bemoaning the
upcoming Christmas season when they came up with a radical idea to
change the way their congregants celebrate Christmas.
The group came up
with a four-pronged approach to returning Christmas to its original
purpose that involved worshipping fully, spending less, giving more and
loving all-especially the “least of these.” The church leaders urged
members to bypass the typical overspending on gifts and maxing out
credit cards, and instead focus on donating money to support
humanitarian work and other worthwhile projects.
Since Advent Conspiracy’s inception, more than 5,000 churches have
been involved in donating millions of dollars to various causes, such
as the movement’s choice cause of digging wells in developing countries
through a ministry called Living Water International.
“[Advent Conspiracy is] generating income in the multiple millions
of dollars,” says Living Water President Jerry Wiles. “It’s a very
effective way of getting people involved and creating awareness there
is a global water crisis and that people can do something about it.”
McKinley admits initially some believers were unsure about what to
do in exchanging the gift of presence for presents. “Some people were
terrified,” he says. “They said, ‘My gosh, you’re ruining Christmas.
What do we tell our kids?'”
But after reassuring their members they were not advocating total
abstinence from gift giving, the pastors said congregants began to
participate in various projects.
“Christians get all bent out of shape over the fact that someone
didn’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ when I walked into the store,” McKinley
says. “But why are we expecting the store to tell our story? That’s
just ridiculous.” [time.com, 12/15/09; chron.com, 12/20/09]