Saturday, November 19, 2005

SL - "Feel Good" Evangelism

Joel Osteen, the pastor of a church that averages 30,000 attendees every Sunday, avoids questions about controversial theology, instead telling people that God simply wants Christians to “live [their] lives happy.” (Beliefnet.com) This feel-good evangelism might create many “converts,” however, it robs these “converts” of a true knowledge and understanding of God, to the point that they might not even understand how God saves them from sin. C.S. Lewis said “theology is like a map,” (136) and although it does not have the same charm and beauty as the real place it represents, without that map someone could not understand a place as well as he could with a map. In some cases, a person needs a map so that he can even understand where he stands. The Westminster Catechism reminds Christians that the chief end of man “is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” However, if a Christian has no understanding of God’s Holiness and his own sin, he cannot glorify God to the fullest.

Many pastors today avoid preaching on topics like sin and hell, because they desire for people to remain comfortable and feel happy. The problem comes when someone sees himself as fairly good, and sees God as only a great “grandfather in heaven,” (Surprised by Joy) whom can they can pray to whenever they need anything. A Christian who, instead, understands the depth of his own sin and stands utterly amazed at God’s grace, can further glorify God through that understanding of theology. If he recognizes his own sin, God becomes greater, and he becomes appropriately smaller. Without theology, Christians can develop a distorted view of God and themselves, which will ultimately dilute the depths of relationship they could have with God through Christ.