Attending a meeting at our church for those who teach classes on Sunday, we were told that we were NOT to “act like teachers”, that it was to be a time to help everyone “share”, that we are to “walk in the footsteps of success” and not try to change people. I listen to Godly, uncompromising teachers like you and John MacArthur, and I’m strengthened. I grow. But then I go to my own church, I hear this kind of direction from our leadership and it doesn’t ring true. Thoughts?
Well, first off, I’m not worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence with John MacArthur which is a bit like comparing a mouse to an elephant, but thank you for including me in a list of those who are uncompromising.
What you are seeing is occurring all over Christianity from well meaning, but seriously off-track men like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. Rick, a solid Christian who knows the Bible well, has just been swept away into the social Gospel, seeker friendly movement and has replaced preaching the complete and undiluted Word of God for messages that appeal to personal success and happiness, and social change.
Osteen, and countless imitators, are simply success speakers who have found a willing and primarily Biblically illiterate audience inside the four walls of the Church (though the practice now is to remove all symbols, telltale sign and most vocabulary of Christianity… a revealing practice to the discerning eye). If he didn’t call himself a Pastor, and claim to represent the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t have a problem with him. He would just be another personal development, success guru. No problem. But when you step over into claiming that this mindset of “victory”, “your best life”, “prosperity”, “divine health” and “success” is what constitutes the Christian life, you’ve crossed the line and socialized, materialized and flesh-ized the Gospel (and that doesn’t get into his butchering of Scripture to support his “success” preaching which is a whole other issue; Warren doesn’t exactly avoid jerking Scripture out of context either to fit his “purpose” themes).
Let me stop for a moment here, and clarify something: I often get called arrogant, judgmental, extreme and unloving when I write, and especially when I name names. However, like I say frequently, I’m only making comment on what people do PUBLICLY. I don’t claim to know their motivations, their character, or their private personality. If I had to guess, I would say guys like Warren and Osteen are probably very nice people; I’m sure they love their families… I don’t even doubt their sincerity. I bet they are wholeheartedly convinced of the goodness of their efforts. I bet they would make great, loyal friends. I don’t doubt their “goodness” as moral, caring people.
But that doesn’t absolve our duty to compare public Christian teaching and movements to the Bible, and proclaim without apology, where it falls short, is subversive, or otherwise waters down pure Scripture and Christianity. I would expect ANYONE to publicly write the same about me if needed. When it happens, and it does, I seriously consider what is being said and make changes where I need to align more with the Bible, or with good Godly wisdom that has been offered. I make no claims to Biblical perfection or understanding (though writing boldly and confidently about Scriptures seems to be such a claim as far as most people are concerned). I do know that I have only one agenda: 1) find out what the Bible says, 2) try to teach what it says without compromise, and 3) change myself to match what I teach.
The Bible is not about social change (thought social change is a by-product of living the Christian life)… it’s not about personal success, self-image, prosperity living (though a fulfilling life is exactly what real Christianity brings)… it’s not about making people feel good about themselves…
The Bible is about the problem of sin, and the answer to it. Sin, repentance, obedience, humility, sacrifice, holiness… a far cry from the list that would describe today’s Christian emphasis: success, prosperity, happiness, personal fulfillment, divine health, abundance, etc.
It remains a fact that the feel good, personal-happiness-centered, social Gospel (let’s get together with everyone and create heaven on earth) has washed over the entire western Church, and more and more what we see are churches competing for the “Osteen-Warren-Hybels-Hayford crowd” of Believers who are looking for personal success, prosperity, support programs, pop psychology and entertaining programs rather than the serious meat of God’s Word that affects change, sacrifice and humility in the lives of true Christians.
As a Bible teacher, if I’ve not encouraged, edified, offended or changed someone, I’m not doing my job – and all of those need to be present in equal balance over time. If all I’ve done is appeal to and lift up your “self” focus and need for personal fulfillment, I’ve abandoned my true calling as a teacher of God’s Word. The Bible is sharp as a razor, penetrating the depths of the human spirit. If I’ve used God’s Word and it has not cut, pruned, sliced or trimmed in such a way as to result in a healthier, more mature Believer, then I’m neglecting my responsibility to rightly communicate the Word of God.
Success, your “best life”, sharing, affirming, self-isms… these are all the terms of today’s ear-tickling “self”-centered Christianity. Christians who want to grow and mature should flee it, and find a group of serious Christians who want to know the Bible, know God, and change their life to fit.
Other than that, I don’t have any opinion on it.