by Phil Vischer
November 18, 2012
I listened this morning to a TV sermon from a popular TV preacher.
“Sermon” may be the wrong term. It was a motivational talk about the power of positive thinking. It could have been given by Mary Lou Retton to a ballroom full of industrial lubricant salespeople. There were biblical references, but they were for the purpose of illustration, not exposition. Christ had nothing to do with the message. Positive life change comes from replacing negative messages with positive ones. The preacher inadvertently almost quoted exactly Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live – “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough…”
It was a helpful message. People applauded. They were encouraged. What it wasn’t, was Christian. It wasn’t Christianity. Life change in Christianity doesn’t come from positive thinking. It doesn’t come from thinking more highly of yourself. Or replacing negative messages with positive ones. It comes from dying to yourself and being reborn in Christ. A new creation.
Here’s a thought:
Christian mass communicators often resort to self-help motivation over actual Christian teaching because it is easier to communicate, and, in fact, it gets results. People’s lives ARE improved – on a mass scale. There wouldn’t be a self-help industry if self-help didn’t work. There wouldn’t be an Oprah if self-help didn’t work.
The problem is, what they’re teaching isn’t Christianity. Even when sprinkled liberally with Bible references. Christianity starts with dying to one’s self, not thinking more positive thoughts about one’s self. But that’s harder to teach through mass media. It is not a particularly appealing message. It’s countercultural. And it doesn’t initially sound like what we want. We want to achieve our dreams – not die to them. Not give them up. We want to “increase,” not “decrease.” We don’t actually want to follow Jesus. We want Jesus to follow us – to pick up after us – clean up our messes with his Jesus superpowers.