A while back I wrote about how Donald Miller has created a monster, that after Blue Like Jazz hit big suddenly everyone wanted to be a famous Christian author. I theorized this occured because everyone wants to be the authority, the flashy person on stage people admire and want to impress. I speculated that we all want to be the one behind the pulpit rather than the one needing to hear the sermon. I mean if you’re a superstar and your God endorsed – well there is no better than that.
Similarly, I’ve noticed a trend lately where it’s all about writing a super challenging book calling believers to come out of their slumber and finally do something for Jesus**. Or, if not a book, when they finally get to stage it becomes a competition to give the most hard-hititng sermon.
The thing is, if you tell me that they should know we are Christians by our love, that it should be totally evident and obvious to the people I encounter that I follow Jesus, it isn’t all that helpful.
What I mean is – giving me a list of should-be’s does not put me any further down the road you want me to go. If anything, depending on the person, it may actually fill them with guilt that convicts them that they stink at being a Christian, rather than inspiring motivation. My response to the should-be is “okay.” And telling me that true Christians should be easily identifiable by their actions doesn’t accomplish its goal – it doesn’t produce any change in me.
Why? Because our motivation to love, forgive, take care the poor, and serve others before ourselves does not come from a message. It does not come from guilt, or a convicting sermon, a book that really “messed me up.” All those things that come from the love of Jesus welling up in your heart and overflowing. You can’t speak that into being like God spoke creation into existence.
Yes those messages are true, you should be able to tell who is a follower of Jesus, but they can’t produce heart change. At best they give enough of a motivation jolt for a few days, but ultimately you need to go to church again next week to get your next charge, your next fix. Though this is how conferences are able to sell so many seats – junkies needing their next motivational speech to go back out there.
I think if pastors couldn’t fall back on “should-be” sermons then they wouldn’t have much material for their weekly sermon. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe our focus should be discipling and passing on the love of God rather than trying to instigate it in words. But, then again, I just said should be. Expletive.
Approximately how many of the “should-be” speeches have you had to endure? Have they helped you much? If so, please explain! So how do we motivate our fellow believers to keep going out and serving?
**Note: I’ll probably get nailed to the wall for choosing these examples, but I do think they illustrate my point of books that deliver strong messages calling Christians to act like they really are. Some of my examples do it with more grace than others – in my opinion Shane Claiborne’s book was not as overt and took a more subtle approach by sharing powerful stories rather than simply a typed out rant of “you’re not doing anything!”