Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Problem Solving Church

The Problem with Problem Solving Christianity

The faith once accurately called Christianity continues to morph into a narcissistic religion that eschews suffering, sacrifice, and self denial. And at the very heart of such a shameful religion is the question for the fallen man to seek an answer to all his earthly problems. He does not desire to follow Christ into a life of consecration and surrender. No, his desire is self enhancement and comfort.

I have counseled hundreds and hundreds of people. And common to almost all of them is their quest to alleviate whatever problem they are experiencing, and in so doing alleviate the discomfort attacking them at that moment. They desire to elicit from me a divine panacea to that problem. And like an answer to a puzzle, they want the cure without sacrifice or a self evaluation of their spiritual lives.

How can I save my marriage? How I can I get out of debt? How can I get a better job? How can I find a mate? We want to get married and now we need a preacher. All these and many other questions are usually at the center of most counseling sessions. Very rarely does the person ask, “How can I deepen my spiritual life?” And yet the latter question is always the pertinent one.

People want words that encourage them and provide a scrap of hope without any substantive change in their hearts and lives. They do not want to hear how they must reverse their spiritual course or how they must repent. They are usually interested in the repentance of others who are causing them distress. They desire me to embrace their side in the matter. They want consolation without contrition. They want encouragement without consecration. They want soothing words without correction. I have always found most counseling sessions very hollow and mostly unproductive, even if their problem can be “solved”.

But such is the state of Christianity. Preaching is now a “how to” session that is like a Home Depot presentation about re-tiling your bathroom. People are not thirsty to hear of Christ and His redemption, they want answers to their own problems. And many decades ago preachers discovered that people want to hear about their own lives, and so many preachers altered their messages to address earthly lives and solutions. That, they found, draws crowds.

But the overarching theme of the New Testament, and the entirety of all Scriptures, centers upon the Godhead, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the redemption provided by that God. But it seems as if that story is now stale and archaic. Today’s messages must be exhilarating and relevant to a well rounded western lifestyle. The cross is now an ancient talisman, but can hardly find a place within the average Sunday morning message. Even the resurrection has become a symbol of turning over a new earthly leaf.

Most people believe that coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ solves most earthly problems. But what has been lost in these modern times is the fact that true discipleship most often causes many earthly problems. And the reason that so many professing believers often benefit from their faith is not due to a divine blessing. It reveals how shallow their commitment to Christ and how deep the commitment to the hedonism all around us. It is the world that slops the hogs not God.

Gone is the sacredness that should accompany a true exhibition of discipleship. Gone is the unmistakable distinctiveness of a follower of Jesus Christ. Gone is the remarkable essence of a life that claims a dedication to Him. Millions of believers, some leaders in the church, live a life that is marked by the same debt, the same entertainment, the same pursuit of earthly success, the same desire for a career, and the same allegiance to earthly systems that mark the average unbeliever. Had this been the case from the beginning there would never have been any martyrs.

But still people clamor for preachers to help their problems. And there is no shortage of books and Cds and preachers to help them solve earthly problems while at the same time these false messengers line their own pockets. The entire religious spectacle is astonishing.

Suppose five men jog out to a baseball field. One wears a hockey uniform, one wears a football outfit, one wears a business suit, one wears scuba gear, and the fifth one wears a judge's robe. They begin to pass around Frisbee. You walk out to the one in a business suit and ask him what they are doing. The man replies that they are playing baseball. But you show him a picture of men playing baseball in the past, and you read to him the rules of baseball. You even show him a baseball, a glove, and a bat.

But the five men gather around you and insist that the game of baseball was meant to evolve over the years. They suggest that what was once practiced is no longer relevant, and that true baseball is now played with different uniforms and with a Frisbee. Regardless of how strongly you protest, the five men continue playing and point to you as a judgmental throwback. They shout out to those in the stands that Babe Ruth was a Neanderthal, and Abner Doubleday is not the only path to authentic baseball.

Of course my sarcastic metaphors are meant to highlight the state of the modern church. They are practicing a faith that has severely deviated from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. And yet the church suggests that we must change with the times and give the people what they want. There are many problems with that kind of problem solving Christianity. Perhaps the most heartbreaking problem is this:

One day people whose earthly problems were addressed and solved by modern preachers will find that their eternal problem was never actually solved. And on that day, what will careers and relationships and prosperity benefit? And even if they have gained the whole world, what good will that do concerning their sin?

The modern church cares for the body but not the soul. And the ultimate liability in that format is eternal damnation. Very, very serious.

8 comments:

Lori Alexander said...

I have been mentoring women for over 8 years. Every time I start with them all they do is tell me how terrible their husband is and what he has done wrong. My greatest task is to get them to admit to their part in the destruction of their marriage, repent, start loving their husbands as God commands them to and every single time they have done this, their marriages have been healed. May I use several of the paragraphs of this post on my blog? Just email me at laalex2@aol.com if it is alright. Thank you, Lori

Anonymous said...

As my journey teaches me more and more every day, I'm almost concluded that the Church of Jesus Christ can't survive well in a prosperous nation. Of course, only He know, because it is His Church. But christians do eventually weaken, water down, because the temptations of a wealthy, hedonistic society tampers us down.

It's true that it's hard for a rich man to enter heaven. All the garbage that goes with exceptionalism, wealthy, security, materialism, success, ambition, idolatry of those who succeed, blinds us every day, every hour. We are bombarded on all sides by stories of excess, entertainment, travel to exotic places, retirees who should place their nest eggs in investments, etc. Everything we hear and see on tv is about clawing and clawing for more, more.

And when it's payday next week, and we've no more grocery money til then, our hearts get heavy and we feel victimized. We want God to fix it for us, like He fixes it for the "others" that we hear about. We ask, how come we never get 'blessed' like all the others. This attitude turns us into unthankful, entitled, depressed, anxious, desperate christians who want their fair share.

I've fought this attitude and can say that if I could live a very modest life, being content to pick oranges for $4/hour on a tropical island and live in a small apartment with my extended family, that it would be much BETTER for my soul.

The truth is, we are trapped by the trappings of the West and it's very hard to break free from those things. I just pray that we all find contentment, and moderation, and not be influenced by the world around us, so we can be worthy to share the good fruit and gifts of the Spirit.

Al said...

Amen Anonymous, I have felt the same things. I began by turning off the voices of the world so I can hear the voice of the Lord. Actually, I felt in the Spirit He was telling me to stop listening to those voices and fast from them for a while. I cancelled cable, stopped listening to talk radio. While I do watch some programming these days, it's much less and I am more focused on non-entertainment things with Christ first. Great Post Rick, thanks for sharing what's on your heart. God Bless all!

Anonymous said...

Your observations are accurate and alarming. I myself have fallen far from the consecrated, intercessory, witnessing, separated lifestyle I lived by the Holy Spirit for years after conversion. A little compromise on a conviction leads to more and more, and a dulling of the conscience, and to a cold heart. After feeding the flesh for years, it is hard to crucify it with its many screaming wants and indulgences. It is hard when you cannot find others to help keep you in that lifestyle, and accountable, though i know that is not an excuse. Please pray for us, I sincerely ask, as I need to, "remember from whence you have fallen, and go back and do the things you did at the first." By grace, through faith, to overcome sin and the carnal nature in the Holy Spirit--yes! Thank you Brother and Pastor.
Victoria

Anonymous said...

The strong delusion has been sent. And it may be spread to the rest of the world. This delusion is, I believe, not even a secret delusion anymore. It's exposed for all to see, and many christians don't want to see it.

This delusion stems from 'trusting' men too much. We, as christians, have always given the benefit of the doubt to leaders who claim they are christian. But, today, corruption, greed, and wolves in sheep's clothing are everywhere. We can't be asleep and believe their 'talk' without looking for the 'walk' and fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is not on display at all by our role models. And idols; America loves it's idols. God can't work where idols are in the way. There are many 'church' idols, political idols, and pundit idols. There are news channel 'idols', entertainment idols, reality tv idols, sports, patriotic, gun-loving, evangelist, christian family advocacy idols, statesmen idols and with so much flesh in the way, how can the Lord be lifted up?

Women's conventions idealize other women. They pay thousands of dollars to have any idol, musician idols and guest idols walk their halls for pay. In fact, all these above idols all get paid extravagantly for their public deeds shown to all men. The secret deeds of the humble always go unnoticed. The U.S. glorifies strength, health, survival of the fittest, beauty, splendor, monetary success. And the church goes along with it.

Another thing that quenches the Spirit of God is vanity. Kids today are tormented by their appearance. They are set up by parents to get their teeth straightened, more and more are being given plastic surgery gift certificates for their 18th birthdays. They are given the green light and told it's acceptable to be obsessed with looks.

I notice how many self-proclaimed christian men and women who are in the spotlight all look absolutely beautiful on the outside. They won't reveal their secrets about cosmetic surgeries, but they pride themselves that they are disciplined with their outside temple, giving advice on how to stay trim, youthful, energetic. These are the idols, the golden calfs that get in the way in the US and the west. Beauty and sexuality are a priority to many christians nowadays. These same love to criticize the unbelieving politicians on their objectives in helping the poor and middle class. Yet, they, as self-proclaimed christians, sit high, lifted up, rich, and have need of nothing pointing the finger and slandering. Can't others see this? Is this what Jesus would do? He died for all men, unbelievers and those who trust in mammon, so it should be a christian's heart to love and pray for these that they come to know Christ. How can they WANT to know Christ if they are being knocked down and called names?

And we lift these banners up, high, proudly, with patriotic symbols. These same proudly wear chains with crosses, but rarely do we see any mention of the cross and repentence. And, I need to seek repentence as well.

Pride and arrogance, vanity that is in the world has taken over many in the church. There was a subtle reversal that's happened the last few decades and we never even noticed it, like the frogs in boiling water.

This is an hour where man cannot be trusted anymore. No man, especially those who claim they are of Christ. I think this is a day to beware of christians publicly speaking things, rather it's a day and hour that the 'acting the good fruit' in private is what will draw men to Jesus.

Thank you for letting me write down what's been on my mind these days. I have to keep myself from idols too. May the Lord keep us and preserve us in these deceptive times.

Rick Frueh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Frueh said...

Since adolatry and didivded allegiances are prevelant, the conscious "moral" church continuse to submit that moral deviations are wholesale within our community.

Do we continue to shoot at our enemies?

Oh well,, stay on this page.

korrie said...

I have enjoyed this post and all the comments.
Anonymous number one said it for me. We have grown into a land of entitlements...from the richest to the poorest there are things folk just feel they have a 'right' to.
We don't have time to be alone with our Lord so He can talk to us, we just hurriedly tell Him what we want and need then we are off to whatever is next. That island picking oranges would no doubt be good for us all.