Thursday, April 8, 2010

"A wonderful plan for your life"

In an article about the "de-churched," i.e. those who have left the church, Skye Jethani identifies two distinct categories: those who leave because they have heard a false gospel and those who leave because they've become cynical about the church as an institution. Those in the first group:
....believe that if they just follow God’s rules he will bless their lives. When things fail to work out as promised, they bail on the church. Christian Smith, a sociologist of religion, has called this belief MTD—moralistic therapeutic deism. I prefer a more sinister and downright damnable name: Moralistic Divination—the belief that one can control and manipulate God’s actions through moral behaviors.

While there are many churches that promote this sort of false thinking, including those within the prosperity gospel crowd, I believe most do not. So why do so many Christians, particularly the young, carry these beliefs? In most cases the problem isn’t what the church is preaching, but in what it is assuming.

For example, the popular summarization of the gospel known as “The Four Spiritual Laws” begins with the statement, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” This idea, drawn from scripture and rooted in orthodoxy, may be faithfully preached in your church. But how is it received? How does a person formed and hardened for decades in the furnaces of consumerism hear this statement?

The biblical understanding of a “wonderful life” looks dramatically different than the consumer culture’s definition of a “wonderful life.” If this assumption is never identified, named, and deconstructed, a person may hear “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” very differently than we intend. .... The result is a hybrid consumer gospel in which God exists to serve me and accomplish my desires in exchange for my obedience—voila, Moralistic Divination.

When this consumer gospel fails to deliver on its assumed promises, as it inevitably does, frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment quickly follow. And the pool of the de-churched gains another swimmer. .... [more]
Note: As Jethani writes, this isn't a criticism of the orthodoxy of the "Four Spiritual Laws" but simply an example of a common misunderstanding that God's " wonderful plan for your life" is that God will give us what we want — not a very good prescription for blessedness — or happiness — and not how that statement was intended to be understood.

Who Are the De-Churched? (Part 2) | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders