Today I received the latest catalogue from Koorong, a Christian bookstore here in Australia. As I looked through it, I started to become increasingly frustrated and, to be honest, it’s a frustration that has been growing for quite some time.
I wonder as you peruse the following titles you can see where my frustration was springing from. It started to grow when I saw “Becoming A Leader” by Myles Munroe. Next I found the latest from the Osteen’s. Joel’s books “Your Best Life Now” and “Become a Better You” and Victoria’s offering of “Love Your Life” seemed eerily similar in their content. Joseph Prince has written “Destined to Reign” with the by-line ‘The secret to effortless success, wholeness and victorious living’. Of course, what’s a catalogue without Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life”? I also remember seeing in past publications Joyce Myer’s “How To Succeed at Being Yourself” and Brian Houston’s “You Need More Money”. I wasn’t sure whether I was looking at a Christian bookstore catalogue or Dr Phil’s upcoming writing projects. I could go on, listing book after book and title after title that sought to entice my dollars and my low self-esteem.
Apparently if you’re not triumphing over finances and debt, walking in divine health or being promoted you’re a failure. Oops. I mean…you’re not living the victorious way God intended you to and therefore aren’t a partaker in the here and now glory of God’s plan.
These books and these authors have repackaged the gospel (and relined their pockets in the process) to such a point that it’s hardly identifiable. For many of them, today’s ‘successful’ modern pastor isn’t a pastor, but instead a skilled Life Coach, bringing people a message of optimism and that God is a source of personal well being; much like a cash cow or magic genie. The emerging mainstream gospel is about making people comfortable, bolstering a hope and expectancy of promotion, increase and blessing, rarely is it about the Christ and His Cross.
What’s so dangerous about a gospel of comfort? If we really are sincere about the Christian faith, why should we be wary of such things? Because living a cushy comfortable life in the suburbs, with our heads in the garden, our bodies in the pews on Sunday and working hard for that promotion during the week is not the gospel. Quite simply, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a rock of offense.
The gospel of life principles that Myer, Osteen and others promote is not the be all and end all of the Cross. If we were to seriously understand the implications of the Cross we would start to realise that our rewards and glory are not about us in this life, but are instead reflected through our salvation in the atoning work of Jesus Christ for all eternity. By willing ourselves a positive attitude and success mentality in this life where we are on top of everything and blinded to the reality of hardships we preach our resurrection, not Christ’s. We become the revived life, where our dreams and desires are primary, when they should be secondary.
If we experience any hardships then it is immediately supposed that there is sin, or lack of faith or…. the list continues on. I can’t understand how that mentality of the gospel is reconciled with the poor or the orphaned or those in third world countries that are forced into their squalid conditions due to the greed and mismanagement of richer countries. It’s a gospel that is well suited to the middle working class, but outside of that demographic it starts to become a house of straw.
For Christians our primary desire in this life should be that of God’s; to go and plant the flag of the gospel from where they sit to the furthest most parts of the earth. Having a comfortable house, working towards the top spot of the corporation and having the victory over finances isn’t the primary gospel commission. If it is, then Christianity becomes about us and not about Jesus.
Instead of some positive pop psychology we should perhaps pick up some other books that focus on Christ and not ourselves. Titles like “It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life by Joan C Webb, “The Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns, “A Simple Christianity” by John MacArthur or even “The Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun (someone should really tell him about these life principles of prosperity).
Or, if it all gets too much perhaps “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers” might be the best book of all.