The Advent Conspiracy from

With planning for Christmas just around the corner, a growing movement of churches is combating the consumerism of the season and reaching around the globe in the process.

“For years, we had been consumed with shopping and gifts instead of focusing on the real meaning of Christmas,” said one church member involved in the efforts of an organization called The Advent Conspiracy. “But this year, our church encouraged us to turn Christmas upside down–or actually, right-side up.

“We’ve recaptured the true meaning of giving, love, and of Christmas itself.”

The Advent Conspiracy, a group formed in 2006 by three next-generation church leaders, recommends that churches spend less, give more, love all, and worship fully the ultimate gift of Christ.

Chris Seay of Ecclesia Church (Houston, TX), Greg Holder of Windsor Crossing Community Church (Chesterfield, MO) and Rick McKinley of Imago Dei Community (Portland, OR) were looking for a tangible way to shift the focus of Christmas from receiving to giving when they launched The Advent Conspiracy.

The group’s primary focus is to equip churches to provide clean water in Third World countries, and it has clearly captured the synergy of desire and opportunity in the church. In only its second year, the movement mushroomed to 700 churches in 17 countries.

“We have been amazed, encouraged, humbled and incredibly overwhelmed to read through these beautiful stories of how you learned to worship more, spend less, give more and love all this Advent season,” wrote Jan Carson in a report on the scope of 2007 efforts.

“To see how these humble efforts have been blessed beyond our wildest expectations is a beautiful reminder of how God desires to give us a new, bigger Kingdom vision for the world He has placed us in. This vision does not stop with Christmas but infiltrates our lives and relationships all year round.”

Along with a primary focus on truly celebrating the One who “became poor so that we might become rich,” Advent Conspiracy encourages people in participating churches to redirect their giving to relieve suffering around the world.

By partnering with organizations such as Living Water International, they leverage their efforts and maximize their effectiveness. To take steps in creating a new culture of giving, Advent Conspiracy and participating organizations offer fulfilling alternatives:

• Give the gift of fresh water–The World Water Council reports that 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water, and 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation. 1.8 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases, and 3,900 children die every day from water-born diseases. [D. Zimmer & D. Renault, “Water Crisis Facts and Figures” World Water Council, 2003.

Churches can join “Just Add Water” by taking up a collection on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning to dig wells in Liberia, Peru, India, and Sudan.

• Give acts of love–The Advent Conspiracy suggests that churches encourage people to give relational gifts that don’t take much (or any) money. They can devote the finances they save to those around the world who are truly in need. For example, parents can take their kids fishing in a nearby lake, a daughter can give her mother a back rub, or a son can clean out the garage for his parents. The list of options is endless, and the gifts may be far more meaningful than something picked up at the store.

One Oregon pastor observed, “People in our community continue to tell stories about the gifts they were given by others. Giving more intentionally and relationally has given more depth and substance to our relationships. We can honestly say that not only was this Christmas season special for us, it was life changing.”

• Give gifts in another’s name–In this new spirit of giving, many exciting, creative opportunities are open to individuals and families. In addition to contributing to clean water through the efforts of The Advent Conspiracy, World Vision offers a catalog of gifts–such as farm animals, school books or fishing equipment–to people in need all over the world. Organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and World Relief gladly receive donations in others’ names.