October 26, 2014

Ranting And Raving

Warning: I am going to rant. I am going to rant and rave and basically have a fit. If you want something more fun and entertaining, I suggest you check out these amusing Nancy and Sluggo covers. Otherwise, proceed at your own risk.

Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me (Psalm 69:9 NLT).

I am, on the whole, a fairly easy person to get along with. I don’t get too worked up about things–or, at least, I try not to. But this week I’ve had it. I have had it with stuff I have been hearing and reading, and I just don’t care to be nice about it any more. This site has called people out since almost day one, and we have no intent on changing that. Michael Spencer wrote about Joel Osteen’s “gospel” in this manner:

As much as I would like to join those who say that Osteen is a simpleton who doesn’t know what he’s doing, a close examination will show that at every point where there is a choice between being part of the church or departing into heresy, Osteen sticks with the church where there is money to be had and departs from the church where there is a faith to be confessed. He could be called a heretic by some, even if he is a believer, and he communicates a purposefully false trivialization of the person and work of Jesus Christ in favor of a man-centered motivational message of self-improvement.

Again, as I’ve said before, every evangelical leader needs to personally and by name repudiate and separate from Osteen, and call upon him and his followers to come back into the faith that is articulated in the Apostle’s Creed.

Michael continued in a different post about Osteen,

Make no mistake about this: Osteen isn’t confused about Jesus like many of the prosperity preachers you hear on TBN. Osteen is intentionally avoiding irrtiating language about sin because he wants to keep it positive every week. He is not just avoiding mentioning Jesus, the cross and the Gospel just because he is seeker sensitive. Joel Osteen is preaching the no-Gospel, no-Jesus message because it’s filling the church with thousands of people who want to hear it. Osteen will ignore his critics because the common people are voting every week—in book sales, ratings numbers and attendance- for his message.

So it is the foundation of this site to not only lift up Jesus, but to call out those who relegate Jesus to a logo for their products. Chaplain Mike did so a few weeks ago when he called Ken Hamm’s plans to build a creationist theme park the “Disney–ization of our faith.” We will continue to do so as the occasions present themselves.

Well, they have presented themselves in spades to me these past few days.

First of all, I love those in my life group. I have been a part of a specific life group—or small group—through my church for at least five years now. I have walked through a lot of messy stuff with these good people. I love them as my brothers and sisters. So when I say I don’t know how I will be able to attend for the next dozen weeks, I say it with intense sadness. But they decided we would start the year by going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I “attended” this “university” six or seven years ago, and came away saying I disagreed with 85% of what he teaches. After lesson one last night, I think I am up to disagreeing with 98% of what he teaches. And not only what he teaches, but where it is taught.

I tried to listen last night. Admittedly, I went in with guns loaded and cocked, and I was not disappointed. Ramsey, in case you don’t know, teaches his “students” how to get out of debt, cut up their credit cards, store up money for emergencies, and build wealth. There is not a thing wrong with any of this on the surface. But—BUT—should it be taught in church? Do we gather together as a family of faith—whether in a large church setting or a small group setting—in order to learn techniques for getting out of debt? As I listened to Ramsey last night, two things struck me. First, any so-called credit counselor could teach what he teaches (and I am not ready to concede what he teaches is sound fiscal planning; but that is another discussion), be they Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Druid or atheist. Which brings up the second thing: Jesus was mentioned twice by Ramsey, a self-confessed Christian, both times as part of his brand of humor. Yet this is being presented in our churches. And that should tell you a lot.

Rant? I’m justing getting started.

I read where Rick Warren of The Purpose-Driven Life fame wants to lose weight. Bully for him. So do I. Once you get north of 50, you can just think about a slice of cake and gain a pound. But here is how Warren plans to lose his goal of 90 pounds: He will do it as part of a year-long health-and-fitness program at the church he pastors, Saddleback Church, in Southern California. It’s a plan developed by Dr. Mehmet Oz, author of You: The Owner’s Manual. Warren and others in the church will participate in the Daniel Plan, so named for the prophet Daniel. Oh, didn’t you know that Daniel came up with a diet plan? You didn’t? Neither did I. And neither did Daniel.

(And yes, there is a difference between a weight-loss program promoted through your church and what Damaris called for last week—the preaching of gluttony as a sin. The Daniel Plan is not going to call anyone a sinner for eating an entire crock-pot of barbecue weenies now, is it?)

The Daniel Plan: God’s Prescription For Your Health. That is what they are calling it. God’s prescription for your health. Holy freaking cow. I … I … allow me one more, ok?

My daughters and their husbands both attend the largest church in Tulsa, a 15,000 (give or take a thousand) member megachurch with flashing lights, smoke machines, and “ushers” who stand guard at the doors to keep parents from taking any children under the age of two into the auditorium. (I refuse to call it a sanctuary.) My oldest called me today—I had suggested she and I go to Dallas on Saturday. I have been missing her and just wanted to spend some time with her, and she likes to shop down there. She couldn’t this weekend, partly because of the new series they are starting at her church: “I Want A New Marriage.” No doubt accompanied by Huey Lewis and the News singing a remake of “I Want A New Drug.” (And I’m not kidding. At their annual Christmas spectacular this last year they worked in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” complete with zombies. You read that right. How God is holding back his wrath over our whole city on that one is beyond me.)

So, just what is wrong with getting out of debt, losing some pounds, and improving your marriage? Well, nothing. And yet, everything. It is the no-Gospel, no-Jesus message Michael Spencer saw Osteen preaching. It is effective. It will fill a church building with people with money to spend on books and CDs and DVDs all day long. But it has nothing to do with the Gospel. Nothing.

Not long ago I was reading an ad for a new church that was opening in Tulsa. (They pop up around here like loan sharks on payday.) “Are you stuck in a dead-end career? Do you need help parenting your children? Is your marriage in need of a recharge?”

“What kind of crap is this?” I asked. Someone asked me, “Don’t you think Jesus wants us to have better marriages?” I thought for a minute and then said, “No. No, I don’t think he really cares one way or another whether we have better marriages or not. I don’t think he is concerned about us being better parents or getting promoted at work. No, I definitely think these are things that matter not in the least to him.”

You can probably understand why I’m not exactly at the top of the list for guest preachers any longer.

Let me just say this straight out. If all you are interested in is becoming is a better person, then Jesus is not your best avenue to get there. You can find lots of self-help books—and in Christian bookstores without embarrassing references to Jesus to worry about—that deal with marriage, health, finances and life-issues you find yourself dealing with. They are piled high on tables leading into the temple. As a matter of fact, you can buy them in many temples every Sunday, credit cards accepted.

Jesus is not a self-help guru. He is not interested in you becoming a better person. He could not care less with you improving in any area of your life. Because in the end that is your life. Yours. And he demands you give it to him. All of it. An unconditional surrender. He did not come to improve you, or encourage you, or spur you on to bigger and better things. He came to raise the dead. And if you insist on living, then you’re on your own. Good luck. Sign up for all the seminars, workshops and marriage improvement weekends that you can, because you’re going to need them.

The Gospel is this: We are dead in our sins. Jesus, too, is dead in our sins. But because he is very God of very God, death could not hold him. He conquered sin and death and rose again. And the only life we are now offered is the life he lives in us. Period. He wants us dead. He’ll do the rest.

How many churches are preaching that these days? How many signs do you see in front of churches inviting you to “Come and die with us”? Joel Osteen didn’t need to buy an NBA arena because he is encouraging his followers to die daily now, did he?

Here is a challenge for you. Go into your local Christian bookstore and ask for the book Chaplain Mike has been highlighting this week, Why Jesus by William Willimon. I’ll bet there are fewer than twenty religious stores that stock that book on their shelves. Or Robert Capon. Ask them for anything Capon has written and watch them scratch their heads. But Osteen? Ramsey? Rick Warren? Stacked deep to sell cheap.

Jesus did not attract a huge following, simply because he refused to play the religious games of his day. As a matter of fact, he went out of his way to make the religious professionals hacked at him. And he also turned on those who followed him simply for what they could get. “You want to follow me? Hate your spouse, your kids, your extended family. Hate them.” “Oh, you like the food I provided for you? Want some more? Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Not exactly the kind of thing to say in order to build your ministry now, is it? No wonder Dave Ramsey doesn’t quote Jesus.

So, if you want to know how to budget your money and get out of debt, find a church presenting Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. If you need a new marriage, there is a church in Tulsa that will show you how to get it starting this weekend. Need to lose some of that weight you added over the holidays? Follow the Daniel Plan. I suggest you avoid churches like The Oaks in Middletown, Ohio. All they do is sing and preach and eat Jesus. All they do is show you the way to die daily.

And who wants to do that?

Comments

  1. So I had to explaint the prosperity gospel to my roommate, a gay man with no time for Christianity. (I have to set any programs on the early church, an area of historical interest of mine, to record and watch them when he’s not around it’s so bad.) The outrage on his face was worse talking about anything other than Prop 8. I noted that it wasn’t something a majority of Christians believed, although the only conservative evangelical I know is a follower of said gospel.

    As an outsider, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the heterodoxy of this sort of thing, but do feel obliged to point out that from out here, this looks less like trying to help one’s flock and more simply confirming that when I hear the word Jesus, I should check my wallet. While classes outside of the service to help those in need are a great idea, when word of services like this reaches the outside, it blackens your name more.

    Although I do have to say that this is nothing new. Thirty years ago, they were on TV, now they have mega-churches.

    Oh Lord Won’t You Buy me a Mercedes Benz

    • Glad you are interested in the early church history though – it is a big interest of mine as well, both east and west….

  2. I don’t have time now to read all of these comments, but I have this to say. The scripture that says when you seek God with all of your heart, He will be found by you. That applies each Sunday morning as my dvr records Joel Osteen’s message. I don’t attend a brick and mortar church of any kind, and haven’t for many years. Being a preacher’s daughter taught me all I need to know about those places. I believe Joel to be a man of God with a heart for God. I don’t own any of his books, and have never sent him a dime. I do, however, hear from God just about each week as I listen to him speak for 30 minutes. The God I serve is not interested in smacking me around and making my life hell, but instead, it is His good pleasure to give me the desires of my heart. The god of the smackdown and smiting is for those who enjoy fear and self-loathing.
    Dave Ramsey endorsed Zach Wamp for governor of TN this last election, so that told me all I needed to know about him.

    • He does have very shiny teeth and nice suits and is impeccably dressed….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And (as noted by the original IMonk) He’s Sooooo Kyooooot! Squeeeeee!

        (Notice that it was a woman who leaped in to defend him…)

        • textjunkie says:

          Jeepers, way to make ad hominem attack, there (or ad feminem)… :P

        • Yes, I am female, but probably look more like a boy than some of you boys. The term is butch.
          To me, Joel is sincere, and it is apparent that he spends some quality time with God before getting to the pulpit.
          This kind of conversation makes me feel like I am being catty and rude just participating via these few sentence,, and it feels like the opposite of what Jesus would do, so this will conclude my tour on this page and subject.

  3. I am coming late to this party.

    I never considered putting Dave Ramsey in a Church setting – doesn’t belong there. He is good for those who are in runaway credit card trouble and he’s a christian and has no more place in the church as lets say a christian dentist. Simply marketing shlock.

    An aquaintance was talking to me the other day about some fitness convention where they sell various group exercise programs like “Insanity (TM)” and the like. She then began telling me about this fitness program called somethin like Gospel Fitness and said “this might be something you’d lbe interested in” to which I answered – no, I would run as fast as I could in the other direction – marketing Jesus so you can sell an exercise program – no shame… and anyway how does that work? Do you quote scripture while doing ab crunches or are you threatened with Joshua’s sword or the Wrath of God if you don’t complete 30 push ups?

    Not into Christian Marketing or applied Bible – which is why I am in what some would call a boring traditional church…

  4. Also…

    Just like there are fads in the secular world, there are fads in the christian world too… and Catholics aren’t imune. The Purpose Driven life (oh please).. Prayer of Jebez (used to support the prosperity gospel), Ugh! All this self help and yet we seem to still be moving toward narcissism at record speed (I don’t need a church – I got me)…. oops, forgot about all those Boundaries books too…..

  5. I swear, I’m getting my m.div for the sole purpose of joining the wilderness and having a conversation starter so i can explain away these types of things to people. (“What did you go to school for? Huh? Why again?”)

    Awesome job Jeff.

    How about series on the “dead” life?

    • It’s coming, Sean. Something I was just thinking of this afternoon is this: We’re not even good at dying.

      • See, that’s perfect – that’s exactly why I ask.

        This scandalous grace/death/resurrection thing has made me fall in love more. I do have more hope and more joy the less I look at what I’m doing and the more I look at Christ alone.

        But I still need to live the life. I still need discipline. And I still need to save the broken world along with Jesus (I’m just facing up to what i feel, right or wrong). So I still fail. And while I’m happier than ever to take my daily failings to Jesus, I’m still looking for the awe, the transcendence, the power, the intimacy, the what-have-you that should come along with knowing Jesus.

        How do you strive/pursue/go to war when you’re dead?

        And I realize how much christianization has taken place in my life just because of that language I use. Aside from that, what I’m trying to say is I still want the Kingdom to come. I want to see Luke 4:18-19 happen all around me. How do you go about it when you’re dead?

  6. I’m not inclined to pick a celebrity and substitute his or her ideas for my own, regardless of whether it’s theology, finance, or any other topic. Not a Beth Moore fan, btw, which puts me on the outs with most “Christian women”. But I also find that a stance of angry posturing at any of these doesn’t help me love my neighbor better, or engage my God-given heart, mind, soul, and strength, which Jesus indicated as being first priority (I’m taking Him to mean that to love God with them means that I actually have to use them in the context of this life I’m in). I’m very wary of the angry fist-shaking Christian because, some of my neighbors have walked away from God precisely because that’s the first, intermediate, and lasting impression of Christianity in our times. Let the dead bury their dead.

  7. I had a somewhat relevant conversation with my good friend when I was looking for a good Christian Marriage/Family counselor when I attempted reconciliation with my now ex-wife…

    He brought up the point that ministry to believers should be something you don’t pay for. And that can be argued. But if someone in my faith community needs car repair or house repair or financial management suggestions/encouragement or advice/support on raising teenagers, what can realistically be expected???

    I had a severe nervous breakdown July 2009 due to my ex-wife’s infidelity & the immense disruption of that disclosure & my attempts at reconciliation. My greatest support/encouragement came from my pastor & dear friends+family. However, I needed doctor’s intervention+medical supervision as well as going to a licensed Family/Marriage counselor to deal with past issues & the stuff of life.

    Was on anti-depressants+anxiety meds for 7 months & counseling for 5 months. I definitely needed the medication, but the counseling was more for the assessment of whether deeper psychological evaluation was merited. It was not. I did have a great counselor & we connected immediately, but other than being a sympathetic ear & a trained listener that could redirect my attention during the time we talked, would this be something the church should provide? Like if a group of churches in one area put a counselor on retainer & then make it available to their congregation as needed?

    Just some additional thoughts…

  8. When we were part of the institution, I usually was part of the “church board” or whatever the equivalent was in the church we were attending. Due to several moves, I have served on several of these boards.

    As you may know, there are several financial programs that are similar to Ramsey’s. I remember at least two occasions when our church leadership group (board) discussed the idea of having these classes on a Sunday evening or some week-day evening. The reasoning stated was to “help our people get out of debt so they will have more money to give to the Lords work”, which in further discussion was explained to mean that the church wanted to build another building and hire more paid staff. I remember on one of these occasions that a man from another church made a little presentation to us, and told us how well this exact plan had worked for their church.

    Please don’t do this. I fully understand that some think this kind of stuff spreads the gospel (that lower case g is on purpose). Yeah, I suppose that hiring an airplane to dump Bible tracts over the city may eventually win a convert. But how can we rationalize this kind of behavior? Just following Jesus and doing the kind of things He did is kind of old school, right? I know – we can’t do miracles, but we can get our rear ends out of our cushy seats at church, and get to know our neighbors so we can figure out how to tangibly love them – not just those who live on our street, but also those who live under the bridge, the addicts, the poor, the orphans, the widows, the prisoners, the hurting and the lonely.

    Get out of debt, improve our marriage, lose weight and clean the house. All are great goals. But don’t forget to follow Jesus real close as He mingles with and loves on the people, mostly on their turf.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Yeah, I suppose that hiring an airplane to dump Bible tracts over the city may eventually win a convert.

      Or a Blimp…

  9. I don’t want to rain on your rant, especially since I largely agree with it, but I believe Michael spoke well of Dave Ramsey.

    • I seem to recall that, too, Jason.

      However, I do agree that church services/small group meetings is not the place for Dave Ramsey’s stuff. I don’t know enough to have a personal opinion on Dave’s advice one way or the other, although I had a big problem with it when my church offered a separate service for a time while they did a Dave R. Financial Peace Univ. during worship time (about 3 years ago).

      • Yep, I’m in agreement there. For those who need it, Ramsey’s advice will help, but I wouldn’t call it a Bible study. I guess I’m not opposed to someone in a church teaching the material, so long as it’s called for what it is. Other than that, I don’t know enough about Ramsey’s program to truly critique it.

        Now if he goes off on the necessity of tithing, that’ll open a can-o-worms w/ me…

        • “Now if he goes off on the necessity of tithing, that’ll open a can-o-worms w/ me…”

          Same here.

  10. Jeff,

    Are you suggesting that God doesn’t care about real-life things like poverty, broken families, domestic violence, poor health, sexuality, and vocation? It sounds like you’re saying He’s just concerned that our theology be orthodox, and that we pray the sinner’s prayer, get dunked, and get swept up to heaven some day.

    I’m sorry, but if God doesn’t care if you are rich, then he doesn’t care if you’re poor. If he doesn’t care that you have a good marriage, then He doesn’t care if your husband cheats on you or beats the crap out of you. If He doesn’t care about your career, then he doesn’t care if you are unemployed and unable to support your family. This, my friend, borders on gnosticism. Please read the Psalms and and the Gospels and then say that God doesn’t care about these things.

    There’s a lot of dislike about Joel Osteen. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of saying, “God doesn’t care about you having your best life now,” let’s say, “Your best life now is about working for the kingdom of God.”

    Ranting and Raving over.

    • BlueWarrior says:

      “It sounds like you’re saying He’s just concerned that our theology be orthodox, and that we pray the sinner’s prayer, get dunked, and get swept up to heaven some day.”

      My brother, this is a very shallow view of the Gospel of Jesus. The Gospel is not salvation leading to heaven, but redemption leading to a Jesus-filled, Gospel-saturated, life that will allow us in our deadness to be an incarnation of the body of Jesus to all those around us – poor, rich, divorced, homosexual, happily married, Republican, Democrat, etc, etc. The Gospel is life, not a portal to heaven.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Then tell that to all the Christians to whom “pray the Sinner’s Prayer, get dunked, and get beamed up to Heaven some day” IS the entire Gospel. I’ve run into too many of them in my life.

      • So, if the Gospel is about life, then preaching about how to have “Your Best Life Now” isn’t necessarily wrong, right?

  11. While I agree with your final point, and at least some of your examples; I do not think it inappropriate to use a program that meets needs and earns the right to share the gospel. 2 dangers though. many of those programs are off-gospel and begin a followers life on a counter productive trajectory. Or, the program’s success is perceived to be so important that, on order to have “success”, we market it to other Christians and other churches and simply contribute to a Christian subculture that further isolates us form the world around us, making us useless in our mission.

  12. Loved the rant! Keep it up! So much out there that I am glad someone else gets inflamed by!
    But, a few points: 1) aren’t we supposed to be laying up treasure in heaven, hmmm? 2) shouldn’t others know we are believers without putting a fish, etc on anything/everything we do? My husband owns his own business, and wouldn’t dream of doing that–he let’s his work ethic/integrity speak for itself. and 3) it’s like the homeschooling crowd, they pull a few verses out of the Scripture and maintain that everyone (yes, everyone) should be homeschooling because it is Biblical. (we did home school (certain years), but NOT out of fear, like the majority do)
    Also, had my son (grad-school) read Mere Churchianity–had great conversations!
    So thankful for this site:)

  13. Coming late to the party but all I can say is AMEN! I was immersed in that world for many years until I got saved. And it was about being a “better person”.

    BTW: Just a note about Ramsey because I also went through FP a while back while an elder at a mega church. Something really nagged at me and it took me a few years to figure it out. Ramsey teaches us to tithe while getting out of debt.. Now, my view on “tithing” has changed because I no longer believe in “tithing”. I believe in generous giving, New Covenant style. But I digress….Ramsey is saying to give to the church while you owe other people. Is this a good witness? He also hints around that none of it works unless you tithe. He really stresses tithing as if it is salvic doctrine.

    Now, keep in mind Ramsey’s largest customers: The churches. He cannot tell folks to stop tithing until they get out of debt because the churches would not like that. he also cannot say, give to those in need around you while you are getting out of debt, because that would mean you are not giving to the church building and salaries.

    Don’t even get me started on Warren….That man can “Christianize” anything. He is the king of the’ plastic fish on the car’ is Christianity syndrome.

    • Now, my view on “tithing” has changed because I no longer believe in “tithing”. I believe in generous giving, New Covenant style. But I digress….Ramsey is saying to give to the church while you owe other people. Is this a good witness? He also hints around that none of it works unless you tithe. He really stresses tithing as if it is salvic doctrine.

      Good points; good observations…

      Early in my young family days, my (former) wife & I decided to ‘tithe’ while I was the sole earner. Just our choice then. The giving aspect was manipulated as is common in charismatic churches appealing to Malachi & other references presented in such a way as to emphasize godly principles but really based on superstition/cursing/guilt, not NT principle of freewill giving/offering…

      The tithing thing has been bastardized into pagan charm/protection stuff making God out to be not only Heavenly Sheriff, but Heavenly Accountant ready to smack down all double-minded miscreants…

      Lord have mercy… :(

      We actually kept up the tithe by putting weekly groceries & other living expenses on credit cards. My then wife spoke up finally about how this was wack. I agreed & decided to get my own financial house in order before ‘giving’ out of the discretionary income we could give freely, joyfully & without worry, guilt or supposed curse…

      • Yes, you’ll notice that church teachings on tithing never mention Deuteronomy 14, which lays out the original specifics, which were basically an annual Thanksgiving meal on location, and supporting a local food bank for widows, orphans, aliens and Levites.

  14. Denise Day Spencer says:

    I’m a Dave fan, and I have no problem with a church wanting to have Financial Peace classes as an extra thing. But I wouldn’t want to make it the subject of an ongoing group whose purpose is supposed to be Bible study. As an extra thing, though, it can certainly help church members become better stewards and can be a great outreach, too. It’s all in how you do it, I guess.

  15. textjunkie says:

    You lost me until the part about how Jesus came to raise the dead; if you insist on staying alive, you’re on your own. *That*, I can agree with.

    The other parts–enh. I’m fond of Joel Osteen because from the few times I saw him on TV, he *doesn’t* go on and on about how God is going to destroy all teh gayz and how non-Christians are going to burn in hell forever, how it’s an us vs them world and God Is On Our Side in This Fight, which was a common theme in other TV preachers’ sermons. I’m not fond enough to buy his books or listen to his sermons regularly, though, so I can’t rebut your points about whether he ever mentions Jesus per se.

    But I do think God cares about whether our marriages are falling apart, whether we have a healthy relationship with money and consumerism, whether we are raising our kids with good opportunities, and basically, whether we have our eyes and hearts on Him in *every* aspect of our lives. That’s what it *means* to be dead to our sins and alive in Christ, at least in part. You don’t go to church just to “worship” and then leave it in the sanctuary for another week, and go home and resent your spouse and cheat on your taxes and teach your kids fear and loathing. We need help in integrating every part of our lives into our relationship with Christ–some of us need more help than others, in one field or another.

    It may be that these programs you are complaining about don’t do that. But you can’t blame people for trying.

  16. Sigh.
    Why is it that when these really interesting posts come up, I’m sitting in a Starbuck’s drinking coffee? My hands are shaking with all this caffeine I’ve just consumed.

    Consumed? Interesting word. Because Osteen, Ramsey, Warren are really products. We (and they) must remember that. I may not have a degree in divinity, but I can smell the secularization of the Gospel a mile off.
    Those who preach need to KNOW that! The Gospel is about our relationship to the Triune God as revealed to us by Jesus.ica
    As noted, He came to die for us; but how many of you remember that He lives IN us NOW! Not theoretically but literally! It is that living out our lives with Him that makes this really good news.
    We need to make a plain distinction between the life betterment programs that litter the christian landscape and and what the Gospel is about.
    Please Google one Andrew Purves on “The Crucifixion of Ministry”. I think it might help.

    Denise, thanks for the post. I think self-improvement is more about our making our stewardship better than about our relationship with God.

    • Good money management is next to godliness…

      Good marriage practices are next to godliness…

      Good parental skills are next to godliness…

      Good health/fitness habits are next to godliness…

      Good housekeeping practices are next to godliness…

      Good (fill in the blank) _________ is/are next to godliness…

  17. I admit to having been confused about this for years. I guess it’s the fruits of the spirit thing. I think a biblical diet plan is, well, just plain weird and I have been bothered for years with the comercialization of Christianity (which I believe is, in great part, due to American Christians’ unrelenting worship of Capitalism). But, at the same time, if God doesn’t care about our marriages, our financial and physical health, but only about where we spend eternity, well, then, I guess I don’t get the point. We all have to live here on earth, following our careers, raising our children, and doing so together. From the events of the last week, we obviously don’t know how to do that very well. I think a great many people flock to these self-help events to answer the question of “OK. I believe. Now what?”

  18. Pastor John says:

    Dave Ramsey doesn’t clam to be a pastor, theologian, or preacher of the Gospel. He doesn’t claim that financial management is salvation. He is a Christian financial advisor and counsellor. He is highly motivational, inspirational, and educational. You don’t have to listen to him or attend any of his classes if that’s not your cup of tea.
    If you care about people and want to provide education that will help them get out of financial bondage, how is that anti-thetical to the Gospel?

  19. Good post about what the Church, and the Gospel are about; dying and being make new in Christ. One thing is bothering me, though: Ramsey is being lumped together with Osteen and Warren, and there’s this huge difference between him and the others. They are both pastors of large churches, preaching and teaching (supposedly) the Gospel-that’s their job, or “calling”. Dave Ramsey is a financial consultant- not a pastor or preacher, and he never claims to be. It’s not his place to preach the Gospel, because that’s not his calling. He never pretends to be anything else but a financial counselor, and the seminars I’ve seen advertisements for have been in auditoriums, hockey arena’s, etc, as well as in churches (and not during service times). Let’s just be fair, here-if a church asks a doctor to come speak on health issues on a Friday and Saturday night, what’s wrong with that? It’s the same thing. I’m no fan of Pastors Osteen or Warren (The sight of a “Purpose Driven Life” book makes me ill….), and I don’t agree with everything that Dave Ramsey says, but he’s very honest about what he is, what he does, and that he’s not teaching anything but what our “grandmothers would tell us” about financial common sense. Having said that, I agree it’s not appropriate to have one of his seminars during worship time, or focus too much on making money. However, Jesus did have a lot to say about money, and Biblical financial principles (which fly in the face of our consumerist, debt-happy culture), do need to be taught somehow.

    • Again, I have to point out that Dave Ramsey has a whole crew of paid employees who call churches on the phone and sell them on using Ramsey’s materials in their congregations. This sales job points out the biblical basis of all that Ramsey teaches.

      He is not the only one to do this, mind you. There are at least two Christian “call centers” here in Tulsa alone…

      Sigh…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Just like telemarketer boiler rooms, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”

        • Which is why I stopped listening to “Christian radio”.

          Supported by ads for Christian ADD drugs, Christian supplements, Christian whatever, etc…

  20. From the recently discovered “Daniel Diaries”:

    Day 1:
    Started a new diet plan today. Yeah, I know I’m handsome and all, free from any physical defect, but I just feel the need to take care of ME.
    Day 30:
    There’s always someone out there trying to sabotage your plan. Today it was the king. “Eat this, eat that. Here, have some wine.” Stuck up for myself and told his servant to MYOB. Offered him a challenge. We’ll split into two teams at the ranch. Team Red (that’s us) will do the whole veggies and water thing. Team Blue will follow their trainer and eat meat and wine. At the end of ten days we’ll do a weigh-in and see who the winner is.
    Day 40:
    Man, we really dusted the Blue team. So we’ve got full permission to eat what we want.
    Day 200:
    I think the king needs to go on a diet himself, all that rich food is giving him some crazy dreams.

    Year 40, Day 89:
    Decided to start an exercise program today. What with the whole leadership change and everything I figure I gotta keep fit so that I don’t become irrelevant. Started building muscle by performing squats by my window 3 times a day.
    Day 90:
    Did a few laps around the lions den last night until I realized they weren’t chasing me at all. Maybe I’ve still got it! I intimidated those beasts right into submission.

    Year 60, Day 100:
    I am undone. I have been in mourning for 3 weeks, unable to eat or drink. What God has shown to me is more than I can bear, more than I can understand. I can but kneel before Him.

    Thus ends the diary of Daniel.

    • Very funny! But be careful. Someone somewhere will believe this and start a splinter group on the basis of it.

  21. I’m not about to speak in defense of Osteen and his sort. Frankly, I wouldn’t trade a three-legged dog for the man — not if the dog can still bark at strangers. But I think we need to look at the popularity of Osteen’s message as both a warning and as a reaction to some things that have been wrong with mainstream Christianity for a very long time now. What I think people are reacting to and moving away from is a Christianity in which Jesus is presented and offered, but only through the filter of numerous religious and denominational prerequisits and conditions. In other words, you can have Jesus only on the terms set forth by our denominational convention or institutional traditions — and unless you agree to believe exactly as we believe, dress as we dress, talk as we talk, and worship as we worship, then we won’t grant you access to Jesus.
    What Osteen seems to be offering is access to God and a better life without the usual religious conditions, and Osteen’s success and popularity shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s like offering $1-a-gallon gas when everyone else is charging $5 a gallon. And, like it or not, people’s views and opinions of different churches, denominations, and religions have a lot to do with their varying membership requirements and fees. After all, getting more for less is the American way.
    Of course, the true Gospel of Christ involves Him giving all of Himself to us as we give all of ourselves to Him — dying to ourselves and being reborn into a new kind of life in Jesus. It’s not a bargain or a spiritual discount sale. It’s a total investment in which all the parties put all their chips on the table.
    While I find it very unfortunate that Osteen has departed from the most central truths of the Gospel, I also see that mainstream and orthodox Christianity’s long-standing practice of keeping theGospel on the far side of an obstacle course of man-made, religious hurdles makes Osteen’s no-strings, me-centered gospel very appealing — especially to those who have tried to run the denominational obstacle course and failed.
    I certainly don’t mind you taking a poke at people like Osteen. But I think we as proclaimed Jesus followers would do better to fess up to the simple, shameful fact that it’s been a very, very, very long time since any Christian denomination or brand of church has really placed and maintained its focus exclusively on Jesus and the Gospel He presented to the world. And until we are willing to set His Gospel free of all the religious bonds and baggage to which we so tightly cling, then maybe it would at least be more honest if, like Osteen, we just stopped talking about Him.