Helpful Lists of Should-Be’s, Or You Lazy Bums!

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!”

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9 Responses to Helpful Lists of Should-Be’s, Or You Lazy Bums!

  1. Aaron Sparks says:

    Guilty as charged. Hahaha… I think you make a great point. Jesus taught by example, where pastors and teachers are guilty of trying to just disciple with a multitude of moving words.

  2. Su says:

    I definitely did the recharge thing– oh, hi, Aaron! Fancy meeting you here!– sorry. I did the recharge thing as a teen, mostly because that’s kind of how teens approach most things, I think. I was definitely a spiritual-high junkie (and once I came out of that, I spent about 5 years trying to convince my siblings not to fall into that trap, with zero success. I second your expletive.)

    While the “should-be” sermons may have their place, I agree that they are not particularly useful. It’s entirely that I fall into that category, too, though, because I have this idea when teaching Bible class that it’s useless unless we find some practical application. Or maybe that’s the point you’re making and I missed it? I did stay up too late last night.

    I’ve noticed in my public transportation life that the people who stand out are not the ones who lecture other people on the bus about why they should follow Jesus (okay, those stand out, but in a bad way), but the ones who are aware of what’s going on around them and help/encourage who they can. I usually don’t even know if the person doing it is a Christian, but when I see their actions, I see Jesus. And that’s kind of what I’m going for in my own life.

  3. David says:

    There are lots of Bible verses that point to what loving Christian behavior is. The Kingdom of God, however; is not one of words, but one of power. Or should I say won of power and not won of words.

    The idea of a conference or a sermon being a pep talk is just more of the world.

    Having a list of do’s that are in the Bible, but are not God is just dead religion. Even the Republicans out give Democrats!

    That’s not even the point. The question is this: Do we hear God and obey? Does the pastor hear God for a message, or conjure one up? Do the spectators hear the word and obey it – are they transformed?

    And most importantly, are we serving God without asking for anything in return – no kudos, no applause, nothing? Can we do our ministry without having our name in the bulletin; can we give to the work of God without recognition? Can we feed the poor in secret? Can you go and leave groceries on the steps of needy folks in your community, ring the doorbell and take off?

    And finally, if the power of God does not back up the word of God, something is wrong. As long as a service is a mini-concert followed by a speech, it is unlikely that Jesus will be either lifted up, or display much in the way of healing or miracles.

    I admire folks that hear God and do it in faith.

    I know a woman that went to see her dying mother in the hospital. On the way to ICU she saw a man sick in bed in one of the corridors. In spite of her limited time to see her mother, she walked in, and asked if she could pray for him. God healed him of a tumor that he was scheduled to have removed in surgery that day. She also led him to the Lord. She went to visit her mother who died in her arms about an hour later.

    I have seen these types of things take place over and over in my 30+ years as a Christian.


    • wow what a story David. I had to pause for a minute after that. You make a great point about wanting recognition for our service – one I/we often lose sight of.

      • David says:

        Right, Charlie, this is what the church is supposed to be doing. Have you been trained to pray for the sick? Most folks rely on the pastor. It’s dumb. We all have gifts and hopefully that church will get a vision for training in both the service and supernatural gifts. It is essential!


  4. Chris says:

    You’ve really said a lot in one post, it’s a little hard to unpack.

    You said: “our motivation to love, forgive, take care of the poor, and serve others before ourselves does not come from a message.”

    But doesn’t it though? Doesn’t our motivation for all of those things come from the gospel of Jesus Christ? Isn’t that a message? A message of good news? In other words there seems to be a fundamentally primary role for proclamation in the church. Words and language carry great power, for both good and ill. Saying that we need sermons like we need a weekly drug fix might be one way to look at it. But don’t the scriptures admonish that we are not to “forsake the assembling of yourselves together?” What would be the reason for that? Could it be because it’s not good to go it alone? I agree that often times some of these Christian motivational retreats may be rather overdone or possibly even hokey. But that doesn’t mean that they are all without merit or value for some people.
    But also are we talking about style or substance?

    Another thing we might want to consider is what a more biblical definition of love would look like. I often think that we misuse the word. You probably know that the early Greeks had at least four (that I know of) words for “love”, whereas we use just one, and it can create some confusion in peoples minds at times I think. In the sixties when they sang “Love the One You’re With” they weren’t talking about “phileo”, the love of a brother or sibling, nor were they talking about “storge”, the love of a parent for a child, but rather they were talking about love in the sense of let’s have rampant sex with whomever happens to be nearby. When we talk about love in the scriptures what exactly do we mean? How do we know love? What are the limits of love? Is love always kind? Is love always pacific? Is love ever violent? Does love always agree? Is love always peaceful? Can there be love in conflict? Is the idea we have about love romanticized or unrealistic? These aren’t my questions but ones I’ve heard and pondered when taking in the scriptures.

    I’m not sure if I’ve addressed your main thesis for this blog or not. Sometimes I gather that our experiences are so different and you cite examples that seem so specific to your experience and so foreign to mine that I’m not quite sure if I’m getting the point.
    I guess my main point is that, yes we can be moved by language and words, but we should try our best to know if that language matches up with holy writ, or at the very least does not detract from it.

    • hey Chris I just now noticed that I wrote a reply to your comment, and it isn’t here. I was having internet connection troubles that day, and apparently it never posted. I’ll work on a reply. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comments.

  5. Pingback: The Bad News About Forgiveness, Or Easter Chocolate Part Two | Charlie's Church of Christ

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