Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guglielmucci, Bentley & Success

It's disappointing to hear that Mike G's cancer story is a hoax. It's hard when something that looks so strong in the church is shown to be weak and sin-tainted. Similar thing happened this week with the revelations about Todd Bentley (although I have to admit no surprise on that one at all). As Christians I think we really love it when things look successful. Healer is a great song that has touched many people. Bentley's ministry looked flashy and successful. But both are now questionable.

First thing to say would be that God is entirely capable (and there is biblical evidence) for God using the ungodly for his purposes. To varying extents we are all sinful and yet God still uses us. So just because these men have been shown to be in sin does not mean that God is not at work through their ministries. I think it is illustrative that while Saul was in sin, God's anointing still rested on him as king of Israel.

Secondly, I would say that there is a problem as Christians when we love things that "look good". I think we want God to break in and establish His kingdom (and vindicate our witness) through big, flashy, undeniable displays of His power and sovereignty. I think the reason we love songs like Healer is that they do provoke deep feeling, and we think that's a sign that God is at work in a big way, and that somehow vindicates our witness. It's like evidence that supports what we've been saying. Same thing with big flashy healings. It vindicates us, brings us a bit back off the ledge, removes some of the risk of faith and witness. But I don't think that big and flashy is the way God necessarily chooses to work all the time. I think Jesus is a great example of this. He "emptied Himself and took the form of a servant", he didn't arrive as the big flashy political messiah that Israel was expecting. Instead He came and He washed His disciple's feet.

I think we should be more pleased when we see Christian leaders and the church displaying the CHARACTER of God, rather than necessarily the power of God. The power of God should be exercised in ways that are consistent with His character. I think this links in with the problems with the Church growth movement. It measures church success through numbers and tends to use marketing techniques to get people to church. I have been reflecting recently that much of what the church says to bring people to Christ sounds a lot like secular advertising. Secular advertising sets up false models of salvation. This product is going to make your life better by xyz. You are going to be bigger, better, faster, more beautiful by using product abc. This is very similar to the gospel that we sometimes preach - come to Jesus, find the purpose for your life, be happier, more at peace, God will heal all of your health issues in this life etc etc. But I don't think this is the true gospel. The true gospel is about dying, dying to self, taking up our cross and following Jesus. This is completely counter cultural, and does not look at all like the messages that we get flooded with by the world. I think the church should be functioning in ways that show this dying to self and mortifying the flesh.

The thing is that I think this is goes entirely against our ideas of success. I think our flesh loves it when we can count up church attendance and let that be a measure of what we are doing. When there are lots of people there, or lots of people buying our CD / crying during our song we see that as success, and our flesh loves it. The central point of the bible is the death of Christ--this absolutely looks like failure. The church needs to concentrate more on knowing and following Christ in His death. In the end this is all about God's glory, not the glory (success) of humans. We need to remember that His strength is made perfect in our weakness not our strength (success).

God bless,
Bec

2 comments:

Alister Cameron // Blogologist said...

"The true gospel is about dying to self and taking up our cross..."

Bec, never a truer word said. And yet there is a lot of the "world" in the church to the degree that we use worldly means to try and achieve Godly ends. And it never works.

Thanks for that beautiful clarity.

Edwin said...

Circa 33AD, Jesus said:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." (Mark 14:26)

And:

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)