One of my good friends read my “Bait and Switch” article and wrote me a thoughtful email about another kind of bait and switch that has become a significant issue in the church. She gave me permission to fill out her thoughts; the resulting collaboration is today’s post.
There is another bait and switch—not pulled off by God, but by the church—that is weakening the Body and causing dissatisfied “customers.” We, the evangelical church, are “selling” the gospel as merely therapeutic, rather than as the Good News it truly is.
Are you poor? God can make you rich. Are you addicted to drugs? Jesus will set you free. He can heal depression, eliminate pain, fix your problems. But there’s no mention of sin, and the need for redemption. There’s no mention of our separation from God due to sin, and our need for a savior from sin’s penalty. And if you don’t identify with any of these groups—poor, addicted, depressed, etc., then why bother? If we’re doing fine, or think we are, then we have no need for God. Church-goers and Christians who, in theory at least, know we are sinners who need a savior, in reality often feel pretty okay and may secretly feel that God should be okay with our better-than-average righteousness too.
In an effort to be more PC, we are straying from the gospel as portrayed in Scripture—genuine faith in a risen Lord who saves us from the eternal penalty of our quest for independence. Instead, we as the church, have truncated the gospel to a few culturally attractive talking points. We rarely talk about salvation from “sin” or the judgement for it, we offer recovery from “brokenness.”
It’s not that God doesn’t heal personal problems, He does! But, it isn’t a quick fix, nor is it guaranteed. And if we miss the first step of truly believing in Christ’s resurrection, accepting his atonement, and submitting ourselves to his Lordship, we miss the whole basis for the healing we need. Instead of going from death to life, we merely move from broken to bandaged. We’re not saved, just more comfortable. What a tragedy.
As a result, some people join the Christian “club”. They jump through whatever hoops are requested for entry (pray the prayer, raise your hand, come forward, develop a story to share at a new member’s class). Then they sit back and wait to see whether enrolling in the Christian club will fix their problems. There’s no sorrow for sin. There’s no conviction of the truth of who Christ is and His resurrection. Worst of all, there’s no personal relationship with God or much interest in knowing what He has revealed about Himself.
When their problems do not resolve immediately, or when life tests their faith, these nominal believers lose interest. They’re like the seeds on shallow soil that put down no roots, but shrivel when hard times come (See Matthew 13:1-23). They did not believe in Christ, but were merely taking the church for a test drive to see what it might do for them.
No wonder some people aren’t interested in serious discipleship. Yet it’s serious discipleship—initiated by God, in the power of the Holy Spirit—that has the potential to change us. There’s a song by Paul Baloche that goes:
The Same Love
You choose the humble and raise them high
You choose the weak and make them strong
You heal our brokenness inside
And give us life. …
You’re calling You’re calling
You’re calling us to the cross….
What does it mean that Jesus is “calling us to the cross”? Not to have a grassy picnic in its purple shadow. At His cross, He invites us to take up our own cross and carry it until selfish perspectives and motives give way to God-loving ones. It’s as we are freed up to care for His agenda more than driven to meet our own needs, that His Holy Spirit weans us from our natural self-centeredness. Somewhere along that Calvary road, we look down to discover that as we have been caring for Him, He has been providing the healing and abundance we need.
Debbie, along with her husband Tom, teaches the Bible in ways that help students apply biblical principles to real life situations, particularly in the non-public arenas of marriage and family. She most recently completed a MA in Education, specializing in adult online education at the University of Hull in the UK. Previously she had studied the Bible and Journalism at Multnomah University and worked as a freelance writer, publishing in magazines such as Discipleship Journal, Moody, Christian Parenting, and Christianity Today. More recently she was the primary writer for the curriculum, Marriage, Where God Builds Two Hearts a Home. Debbie enjoys facilitating learning as much as designing it, and has taught in person in various countries of Asia and Africa. She is keenly interested in the reciprocal influences of culture and learning.