Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Feel Good" Gospel

In an addition to what I talked about yesterday about the "feel good" Gospel... Paul actually predicts the situation of the "feel good" Gospel that I have seen a lot of in many churches today in the 4th chapter of his 2nd letter to Timothy.

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

I haven't been working in church ministry for a very long time, but in the short time that I have been, I've seen one issue that really scares me. The mega churches are usually the ones that preach the feel good gospel. Even in Harrison, the bigger, popular churches are the ones that leave attendees feeling happy and glad they are a Christian rather than feeling challenged to do something to make a difference in their community and to live like Christ. I've even seen pastors that do preach the word with sound doctrine either get run out of the church or forced to develop a "happier" sermon style to avoid being run off. The church is in a mindset of satisfying their "itching ears" with what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Alright, I admit that I've hit bloggers' block or something. Especially when it comes to my "theological" posts. But maybe this post is a sign of a comeback tour. Or then again maybe its just a grand finale one hit wonder sign of a comeback like you see with a lot of musical artists that try to make a comeback. Guess we'll find out....

I absolutely love Paul's letters to Timothy. I don't know why for sure. Maybe it feels so much to me like they were written to me. Yea, thats probably it. Sit down sometime and read through them. Great stuff! Something I read today and started processing in my mind (then pops the idea "I should blog about it") is from 2 Timothy 3:10-17.

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

As Paul is wrapping up his second letter to Timothy, he gives Timothy a direct order of how to live the Christian life. First Paul writes "continue in what you have learned and become convinced of." This places huge value on tradition. Learning from past theologians such as Martin Luther or John Wesley and the history and tradition that stems from the universal catholic church. So often I see new churches that completely neglect this order from Paul. I have always thought that it would be easier to work at a new church plant because you wouldn't have any tradition restraining you and preventing you from thinking outside the box, but many churches have gone too far. We must appreciate and learn from the roots of our Christian faith as we continue to move forward or we begin to develop off the wall theological beliefs and practices that don't always go hand in hand with Scripture.

Paul then states in verse 15, "and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures." We are to know Scripture and stick to it. The one thing that probably bugs me the most that I see in churches and Christians is the "feel-good" gospel. I was watching Joel Osteen on tv the other night (and it took a lot of willpower for me not to change the channel every 3 minutes) and all I kept hearing was "if you stick with God, you'll get this and he'll bless you with that." He was sharing the story of Ruth (if your unfamiliar with the story, you may want to read it right quick before reading on) and saying that she got her "handfuls on purpose" for being faithful and that if we are faithful, our Boaz will come along and we will receive our "handfuls on purpose." I agree that God will bless us for our faithfulness, but where is the challenge? How many of us are suppose to be Boaz? Supposed to look out for others and be the ones giving out the handfuls on purpose? Instead, we're sitting around waiting for God to deliver ours. In verse 16, Paul even states the purpose of Scripture. Scripture "is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." I didn't see anything in there about making us feel good...did you? I just feel that Scripture needs to be studied and taught in its entirety. Jesus used HARD WORDS. Jesus challenged and pointed out when his disciples didn't live up to the challenge. Then in verse 17 he tells why we need the training. "So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for ever good work." The purpose of Scripture isn't to make us feel good about being a Christian until we get to heaven, its to challenge us to become more and more like Christ and to use our gifts and abilities to further His kingdom.

I couldn't help but compare this passage to sports, which I tend to do a lot when I teach Scripture. I'm gonna go with football (although I could easily do basketball or many other sports). If I give a football to a group of kids that have never watched football before are they really going to know what to do with it? Are they going to play the game just like it was designed to be played? No way! Before you can start playing football, you have to have watched it and understood it to some degree (verse 14 - tradition). So my group of kids (who I'm now coaching) have seen football, now what? I'm gonna give them plays, a playbook, so they can learn the plays. If everybody is doing whatever they want then we're not gonna be on the same page and we're not gonna function properly. But when everyone knows where to be and what to do, things work a lot better (verse 15 - Scripture). Next? We have to practice...a lot. And the saying "practice makes perfect" couldn't be any farther from the truth; "perfect practice makes perfect." As we practice I have to teach them technique, how to throw, catch, block, tackle. We have to train, we need to be stronger and faster. And we need to correct mistakes (verse 16 - training). So why are we going through all these steps? Why are we learning plays and practicing? Gameday! We have to go through the steps so that we are equipped and ready to play and win. It's the same in the Christian life, we go through all these steps, understand the game, learn the playbook, and practice (teach, train, and correct) so that we are "equipped for every good work," so that we are serving God in every aspect of our being and spreading the good news of His Kingdom.

It's Gameday. Are you prepared and trained or are you just wingin' it, treating it like just another pickup game?