Monday, July 18, 2011

Jesus Doesn't Need More Cowbell

Ever heard of The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived: Secrets for Unparalleled Success and Unshakable Happiness from the Life of Jesus? One of the customer reviews explains the book this way:
He started his career with eight failures and became a multi-millionaire. In this book, he shows you how to succeed at being the best YOU you can be, by being like Jesus. This book is "How to win friends and influence people" plus every book that John Maxwell ever wrote, all in one. You can save yourself a ton of time and money if you buy, read, highlight, study, and apply the principles of this book.
In an endorsement of one of the author's previous books, JetBlue Airways CEO David Neeleman says, "I believe these breakthrough strategies could propel you to levels of success and happiness you haven’t imagined. No wonder the wisest man who ever lived also became the richest!"


We can scrutinize this spiritual vacuousness of this book till the cows come home. But the problem is that what makes books like this so popular is also what drives the message of too many of our churches: Jesus wants you to achieve your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The evangelical Jesus is the guru of our American dreams.

And why? Because that's what we want. That's what sells easily to us. That's what draws the crowd.

In John 6 we get a breathtaking survey of the extremes of Jesus' ministry. He begins by feeding a crowd of 5,000, a feat so miraculous and impressive they basically try to make him king by force. Then Jesus walks on the raging waters. The crowd loves it!

Then he says lunch is great, but eating his flesh and blood is best. And he teaches on God's sovereignty, not man's autonomy (John 6:65) and he loses a whole lot of people. He goes from packing out the arena to leading a small group.

Let us beware of negating the scandal for fear of losing a crowd. Jesus needs no bonus features, and he certainly won't stand for having his message twisted or enhanced for maximum customer satisfaction. You don't need to add more cowbell to Jesus.

You may end up with a crowd, but you will end up with no Jesus.


Gabe said...

Before Jesus saved me, I spent a great deal of time wrapped up in this mythology. The real danger in all of it is that it actually works.

You do get more friends and more money and well, a 'best life now'.

And your heart can be as dead and as hard as stone. You feel empty when you realize that the depths of your life all have price tags or levels that are defined like achievements and that none of them are permanent.

A further beware? Okay but only since you asked. This stuff is like the smell of fresh blood to a wolf. They smell people interested in success and they pounce. A church puts them in positional leadership because they are successful in business. They get made a deacon or, sometimes, an elder because they manage people well. And though this isn't a bad quality to have as an elder, if it's your only one, you aren't an elder.

Anonymous said...

Wealth is such a topic. On one hand, many of us who delve into Scripture understand that having material wealth doesn't = having God's blessing and likewise NOT having material wealth doesn't mean we're Doing It Wrong. I'm constantly surrounded by two extremes: God wants everyone to be poor and God wants everyone to be materially rich.

Jason said...

"You may end up with a crowd, but you will end up with no Jesus."

And at that point, there's really no purpose to anything.

nhe said...

I don't know the Jet Blue CEO at all, but I wonder if he would really want to be put on the path toward being like "the richest man that ever lived", as he put it......surely he's not talking about intangible things on not money and possessions......I just wonder, is that REALLY what that guy wants? Or is he just throwing out "Jesus was rich" as a catch phrase.

Ben Reed said...

I preached about this idea yesterday...that Jesus started with crowds, but that the crowds left as the message got tougher. Then I proceeded to share a tough message from Jesus...where he cursed the fig tree, in Mark 11.

It wasn't an "easy sell" for sure. But I'm praying that it drove people to a deeper, more authentic relationship with Christ.