We need a little perspective here. Our situation in the U.S.A., relative to Christians elsewhere, is not unusually difficult. It is true that we are now moving away from a time when Christianity has had some cultural acceptance. After all, consider how popular it has been to be “born again.”
But let us remember that outside the U.S.A., there are Christians who live under tyrannies, such as from Islam, or in extreme poverty, or surrounded by horrible political corruption, or are subject to rampant crime. Our situation is really not that bad!
What the Message Isn’t
What it requires is that we have some conviction about biblical truth, some savvy about the culture in which we are living, and the spine to preserve our identity as believers.
It is a temptation to think that by being nice and accommodating we can make the Christian gospel seem like a great little addition to everyone’s life.
But the gospel is not a great little addition. It is a soul-shaking, costly demanding reality. The church cannot hide this fact!
The gospel is not about self-therapy. Despite our pressured, taut, nerve jangling age, the Christian message is not there just to make us feel better about ourselves or more able to cope.
What the Message Is
It is about coming before our great God and Savior, confessing our sins, entrusting ourselves to Him, and surrendering our claim upon ourselves to Him.
What is Needed
What is most needed, and what is most lacking in the church, is a little character in differentiating its message from self-help therapies and marketing strategies. Our deficiency is not that we lack the right technique. It is that we often don’t have a real alternative.
Questions for Reflection
- Do you see the church as an alternative faith community to the culture?
- How can we live as an alternative faith community?
David F. Wells, The Soul-Shaping Reality of the Gospel, an interview in Table Talk Magazine, January 2011.
4 thoughts on “The Soul Shaping Reality of the Gospel”
The one thing about the church in the west (read: America) — it seems to me at least and I don’t claim to be all-knowing or any kind of sociological expert 😛 — is that we aren’t really suffering in any tangible kind of way. So it is easier to have faith behind the scenes because we are not required to live it out in the face of real persecution. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions, but when people speak of believers going into hostile areas of the world and being tortured & killed (or worse things while alive), that’s not something we here in America — land of violence and death being abstracted through movies — really “get,” in any real sense. My two cents.
Thanks for your comment. I agree with you. We don’t know persecution like others in hostile areas. While it is getting less popular and starting to be costly to be a Christian these days, it is nowhere near what others experience.
The gospel as self-help therapy? I’d never even thought of that one.
The Gospel is beautiful and if we all lived it, really wore it in our lives, I think love and grace would abound. What is the difference in Acts 2 and today? Why don’t we see 3,000 accepting Christ and being baptized? Why don’t we see communities who come together daily to fellowship, study and worship and sell all they have to give to those who need?
As I think about my question, I admit I stand at the front of the line stating I’m guilty. I have not lived out the good news the way I should in the past. The future is there for the taking to be very different and I pray when people see me they believe they just encountered the heart of Jesus.
Some definitely use it as self-help therapy. Think of the health-wealth guys. Or those who just need a little bit of Jesus to keep them going. They aren’t necessarily looking to Him to lead their lives, but to inspire them or help them feel better about themselves.
Those are good questions. Questions of conviction. Questions worth pondering.