Tastes Great, But Less FillingI do not know about you, but I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with where I see mainline Christianity going these days. When I look around at the trends I see in churches, I am reminded of the beer commercial that said, “It tastes great and it’s less filling.” I think the Christianity that is seen by most Americans looks good on the outside, but it fails to deliver in changing people’s lives. Most of the time I see Christians who are just as selfish as the ever were, but they have just clothed it in Christian language. I see Christians who are greedy with their money, who have a total lack of interest when others in the world are starving, who want to turn to violence whenever a conflict happens, who worship Christian stars instead of God, who use the Bible to exclude others from the church…. I could go on and on.
I know that last paragraph was pretty harsh, but I think it needs to be because I believe the church desperately needs a wake up call. Before I move into some specifics, I do want to say that I believe Jesus was and is God and I believe that Jesus came to bring salvation to the world. I am not criticizing Jesus at all; I am criticizing out lack of effort in trying to actually follow Jesus. I believe when the church truly seeks to understand and follow Jesus, the church transforms the culture. When the church seeks to follow its own selfishness, the church allows the culture to transform it.
That being said, here are several issues I see the church having to really work on in the future:
1. Pop-Christianity: When I survey the places I see the church growing I am reminded of my middle school days when New Kids on the Block was famous. Every girl in my middle school was swept up by this band. Of coarse there have been several bands that have replaced New Kids on the Block as the popular band, but the phenomenon is still the same. It seems that we always want somebody to be famous so we can look up to them.
When I look at the contemporary Christian movement, I see a similar pattern. We, even as Christians want to place our worship leaders and great speaks as celebrities so that we can look up to them. We hang on every word they say and every lyric they sing without ever stopping to wonder if it is actually Biblical or not. We flock into churches that put on weekly concerts where the music vibrates in your chest. We watch live rock stars that are flown in from out of town perform and then we say we have experienced God. We listen to the same speakers over and over and we begin to think the words they have spoken must be the only way to every read the Bible.
2. Prosperity Christianity: The greatest challenge our society has is that we are greedy. Our whole economy is based upon greed. We are always asking ourselves how we can get more money and accumulate more things.
My wife always runs in to turn the channel when I watch the Trinity Broadcasting Network because I get so angry at what I see. I normally hear the message that if you give money to God by donating to TBN, then God will bless you monetarily and spiritually. If you just have enough faith, God will heal you from your sickness. It seems to me that we are taking the same principles we find in our society and making them Christian so that we do not have to face our greed problem.
3. Calvinistic Christianity: The fastest growing group of Christians is among Calvinists. Calvinism is a theological system passed down from John Calvin. One of the things that distinguish Calvinism from other theological systems is that they teach that God elected or chose particular people before the world was formed to receive salvation. This means that all of those persons who were not chosen or elected, God chose to pass over, leaving them outside of God’s mercy and grace and leaving them condemned to their sins.
One of the reasons I think many people are turning to Calvinism is that this type of theology allows for persons to exclude the people who are different from them. If you believe God excludes most of humanity, then as human, we surely have the same right to be exclusive on earth.
For the time being I have pointed out three things that I see as becoming popular among Christians today and I find all three of these things troubling. The main reason they are so bothersome to me is that they seem to go against the very things that Jesus himself modeled in his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus taught us that we were to worship God only, that we were to pick up our own cross and follow Jesus. We are to be inclusive in that Jesus welcomed people who were on the outside of society.
The gospel was never meant to be easy or comfortable. Jesus’ choice to follow God meant that he would die on a Roman cross. Paul’s choice to follow Jesus meant that he would also die at the hands of the Romans. Christianity is not popular or cool. It is a dangerous and hard commitment. I do think that God wants us to be BLESSED, not necessarily HAPPY all the time. Blessed is a peace that comes from the inside that tells us in the midst of life, God is with us. It is a joy that does not always taste great, but it will always be filling.