"Somebody once said: “The Gospel came to the Greeks, and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy. The Gospel came to the Romans, and the Romans turned it into a system. The Gospel came to the Europeans, and the Europeans turned it into a culture. The Gospel came to America, and the Americans turned it into a business.” And business is booming. Millions of churchgoers file in to buildings each week, line up in rows like shelves at Wal-Mart and watch the stage. They come for one purpose: to see a show and hear a pastor."
I know I've said some tough things on this group, and some sensitive christians have taken offense. But I've also said I'm really searching, for Truth.
I read the above quote OutReach Magazine's article The Problem with Pastors as Rock Stars, and wonder what you guys think about it. The author talks about the rock-star celebrity pastor mentality in churches today. That is...IMHO...a result of modern American culture, with our celebrity/idol fixation.
As a self-admitted searcher - one who is trying to find Truth - that is one problem I have with the Christian church today. I think, if the Bible is true, then there must be Truth to the Christian life, or walk....but so many churches today are clubs or social gatherings...nothing more, nothing less...and the members are no different from me...their attitudes, their activities, their life.
What exactly does it mean to have a relationship with Christ? If there is such a thing, what makes it different than any other religious experience in the world? And isn't a Christian supposed to be different? If so, how? In my discussions with Christians they've all talk about a changed life. If the church isn't getting people to that change, then what will?
If the church isn't getting people to that change, then what will?
Jesus! The answer is Jesus. Simply attending a Christian church your whole life does not make you a Christian. Church isn't the answer, Jesus is. The fundamental difference between Christianity and every other religion in the world is that Jesus accomplished what I could not by living a perfect sinless life, the life I cannot live, and then he died a brutal sinner's death, the death I deserve to die. In the act of His resurrection from death by His own power and volition He created a way for a sinner like me to have a relationship with a perfect and holy God. He took all of my sin away AND transferred to me all of His righteousness so that when God, who is perfect and just, looks at me He chooses to see the perfection of Jesus instead of me.
The God of Christians is not an aloof God demanding that we rise to His standards on our own like Eastern religions, He is not a neglectful God leaving us to find our own path to enlightenment like Buddha, He is not a petty God demanding perfection or ultimate sacrifice without assurance of salvation like Allah...He is a loving God who was willing to send His own Son for an adulterous people. He willed that Jesus would stand in our place and receive the full brunt of God's wrath so that we could be reconciled to Him. God's just nature was not defiled, He did not withhold His wrath, He did not turn a blind eye to sin, He does not wink at sin, He poured His full fury on Jesus instead of us. Jesus is God, the blazing light at the center of the Bible and the only assurance of our faith.
What makes a Christian is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, faith in Jesus to be who and what He said He was; the one and only perfect Son of God who is willing and able to save mankind to uttermost. Without full surrender to Jesus, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the resulting transformation of the heart and mind a person cannot experience or understand the difference, to put it bluntly. Simple church attendance or extensive research don't amount to anything but human effort and our efforts don't cut the mustard. One must "lose his life to gain it" as Jesus said. Give up, give in, and turn your life over to Him. That's it. That's the only way. God doesn't actively exclude anyone, people exclude themselves when they choose to reject the only way God provided for salvation.
That is the basis of being a Christian. As you and others have stated there are differing opinions on secondary matters (methods, service order, dress, certain doctrines, etc) that should NEVER, but often do, distract from the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, a true Christian cannot deny the deity, exclusivity, and substitutionary atonement of Jesus.
Also, in response to that quote, it's spot on. That's what man does with the good things God gives. Left to ourselves, without Jesus, we defile everything. Even the splendor and scandal and beauty of the Gospel can be reduced to systems and structures and business by unregenerate men. Look at Adam and Eve, the only "very good" humans ever to walk the earth, the only humans to exist in a world without sin and they jacked it up. It's in our nature, man. That's why I turn to, focus on, talk about, and defer to, Jesus every chance I get. He's not just a good man, He is the God-Man.
One of my favorite sections of Scripture is in Paul's letter to the Christians in the church at Ephesus; he reminds them of the truth of the gospel and where faith must rest. (Emphasis mine)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)
This brings tears to my eyes, seriously...I was not a "great catch," God didn't "really really need me on His team," but God chose to love and call and redeem me from death and destruction and darkness anyway. It's beautiful.
John Piper, one of my favorite preachers, says that those two words, "but God," are the greatest in all of Scripture. We were without hope but God...
Incredible! Thank you very much Tanner.
Thanks Tanner. I think you answered the core question. Preach Jesus and him crucified.
I heartily disagree with the first quote if "The Greeks" is meant to be we Orthodox. We did not "turn" the Gospel into anything. It pervaded everything. It became the driving force for our culture, our worldview, and our lives. What we eat, the prayers we pray, the art we create, the architecture we build, the gestures we make, the way we greet each other, the way we wish each other "Happy Birthday" the holidays we celebrate, how our homes are situated, the clothes we wear, the hymns we sing, the way we reckon time, these are all firmly rooted in Christ and His Gospel, and I'd be happy to provide examples on any of the above if you like.
If you want to hear how Christianity should be directly applicable to your life via your externals and internals and how Christians are 'different' then this article by Fr. John Moses is brilliant.
I don't think he was picking on the Greek Orthodox or the Russian Orthodox Church...
Thanks for the link...I'll check it out...
I think you are stereotyping a bit. Just because we may, because it is definitely a matter of opinion, currently reside in a “culture of celebrity/ idol fixation” doesn’t mean you have to buy into it personally and just because some are falling for it doesn’t mean everyone is. Moreover, people bring all their human foibles with them when they come to religion. In that light, a person who is in the pews for the show and the sermon may be exercising their faith to their fullest potential. It is therefore always a good practice to accept people where they are at and encourage growth rather than judge from where you may be at, spiritually speaking.
As far as searching for the truth I can only suggest you look at both the forest and the trees. For example I, personally, have a hard time taking a tele-evangelist’s ministry seriously (the forest view). That does not mean that there are not individuals who are seriously devoted to such a ministry and are more than capable of teaching me a thing or two about living a Christian life (the tree view).
Moreover, people bring all their human foibles with them when they come to religion
From what I can understand about religion and/or denominations...that's exactly the problem, Lee. If a person actually gets to Christ, all their human foibles should be surrendered to Him....or am I missing what Christianity is all about?
Depends on what you mean by surrendered. If you mean being up front with God about just how messed up we are and honestly doing the best we can in spite of them by His grace then yes. If you mean turned over so that you are somehow cured of them, absolutely not.