As I have evaluated who I am, I think I am a pretty decent verbal communicator. I think my ability to think quick, and effectively is something that God has blessed me with, and is a blessing to others through teaching, encouraging, getting coffee and even preaching. I am pleased with that.
However, I am just a terrible writer - which is why blogging is so very hard for me. I write how I talk. Choppy, using dashes and parenthesis and exclamation points all the time, since I want to have emotion and passion in my writing. I have read much of what I have written and, at best, I give myself a C+ (because we all think we are above average - see Garrison Keelior!)
Every now and then, someone writes something that is EXACTLY what I am thinking and feeling, but could just never put into words. Below is one of these thoughts. Leah Grimes in a Hopester for a few years now, and quite honestly, and amazing writer. She has written something today that has really encapsulated my own thoughts about the "happy" gospel.
If you like what she has written, then let me know, and I'll pass it on. If you disagree with her, and love Joel Osteen and his message, then write a comment to me, and I will defend it. I agree with her 100%, so don't go find her to pick a fight. Get on your theological boxing gloves and you and I can go! (in a nice, Minnesota, Norwegian way - which means we will just ignore each other with massive passive agressiveness and then each die of stomach ulcers very young!)
Enjoy a great piece of writing about a controversial subject
Widening the Narrow Gate
by Leah Grimes
“[My goal] is to give people a boost for the week” –Joel Osteen (Lakewood Church)
"THIS IS A HARD TEACHING"
In my personal opinion, Osteen (along with countless others) presents a gospel that few could find offensive, and even fewer could reject. Over the past decade, Osteen’s message of “happiness” “positive thinking” and “financial prosperity” has attracted a loyal following of “itching ears” across the nation and around the world.
Though I refuse to judge the heart and motives underlying this man’s message, I find myself incapable of ignoring the implications of such teachings…
Basic logic would dictate that very few people would object to a gospel which promises happiness, success and wealth in return for being a “good” person and thinking “positive thoughts.” Recent nationwide surveys affirm this logic.
Yet I wonder…Since when has the Gospel of Jesus Christ become so inoffensive to the world? Since when has the narrow gate that few would find (Matthew 7) become so wide and easily found?
I wonder how many first-time attendees at Osteen’s church (and churches all across the nation for that matter) walk away from the weekly sermon saying, “That was a hard teaching.” Yet this was the exact response that Jesus Christ elicited from His own followers in John 6, “On hearing it (Jesus’ teaching), many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’ ...many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
The American church, in general, continues to cowardly tip-toe around every portion of Scripture that may be considered even slightly offensive or controversial. Preachers have resorted to producing neutral sermons that offend none and encourage all. The focus has shifted from the cost of discipleship and total transformation to church growth, attendance figures, and filling the seats. We have adopted a numbers-centered mentality…if we entertain, if we make people “feel good,” people will come back and the church will grow. "We now seek to comfort sinners, not to convert them."
DIET WORLD: SEE IF YOU CAN TASTE THE DIFFERENCE
Following stagnant church attendance in the 1960’s and 70’s, Evangelical leaders resolved to make the American public “feel good about going to church again” by proving that church was “worth their time.”
The game had changed. No longer were congregants asking “what can I offer God and this church?” but rather “what can God and this church offer me?” Sermons began sounding more and more like self-help messages…decorated with the occasional humorous antidote, movie clip and feel good family story. Please hear me correctly… Self-help teachings (Think: how to manage finances, how to have a healthy marriage, etc…), humor, stories, and illustrations all have their appropriate place within the body of Christ.
Yet it is my firm belief that every man, woman, and child that sets foot within the four walls of any church, is above all else, in desperate need of the message of salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, not a 3-point sermon on “How to become a better person” or “How to experience success in life.”
Through the atoning death of Jesus Christ at Calvary, we, who were by nature objects of wrath were made alive in Christ even though we were dead in our sin (Ephesians 2). The redeeming Gospel of Jesus Christ is the means through which dead people are made alive…not through which bad people are made better or unsuccessful people are made successful.
Jesus attracted massive crowds when He performed miracles while in the marketplace. Many began to follow Him, enticed by the prospect of blessing and healing. Yet it is when Jesus began to speak of the cost of discipleship that many deserted the faith. In Mark 10, a rich young man approached Jesus, asking “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The Word of God says that “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
If you listen closely…you will hear a desperate world crying out to the church, “What must I do to have peace?!?” “What must I do to have joy?!?” “What must I do to find purpose?!?” “What must I do to inherit eternal life?!?”
And what is our response? Do we, like Jesus, stand upon the very Word of God and boldly challenge the world to pick up its cross and follow Christ?
Do we encourage them to be a better person? To join a church? To read the most popular Christian book by the most popular Christian author? To listen to KLOVE? Do we offer them a “diet” version of the world that they have spent years addicted to, and yet have still been left wanting…or do we offer them a drink without cost from the spring of the water of life (Revelation 21).
CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
I am a very young woman; I know very little…yet what I know, I offer freely as a platform for greater thought and discussion. For the past 23 years (much to the credit of my parents’ discernment) I have been blessed to attend churches that cling to the Truth of the Gospel and preach it boldly, with conviction. Yet I know that many have not been as fortunate.
I do not wish to seem ignorant of the many battles currently plaguing the modern-day church. The difficulty of competing for the attention of congregants (especially the youth) in an increasingly distracting world should not be underestimated. The need to be relevant, savvy, and entertaining often seems great. It is therefore incumbent upon my generation to find a way to be relevant while refusing to compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a young girl I was given the following charge…everyday these words fall with greater urgency on my heart…
“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. They will turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist.” -2 Timothy 4
**Disclaimer: Joel Osteen is admired by many as an influential pastor. I have nothing personal against the man. He just served as an example.
**I want to credit Jim Elliff for inspiring many of the thoughts found in this note.