Justin Taylor pointed to a good post, a risky post, from Kevin DeYoung. It’s a long one, and there is a lot of good stuff in it. Let me give you a couple highlights on how he addresses “do more” Christianity.
When the pastor preaches on generosity the goal should not be to make every last person feel like a miserable, miserly wretch. Because unless you live in some Godforsaken locale, there are probably people in your church who practice generosity. A good sermon on generosity might spur them on to further love and good deeds but it should not leave them feeling like complete failures. We may all have reason to repent after every sermon. But we don’t have to repent for every issue brought up in a sermon. Sometimes, by God grace, we do get it right. The problem with “do more” Christianity is that no one is ever allowed to get it right. And the problem, ironically enough, with never allowing anyone to get it right, is that fewer people feel like getting it right really matters.
Two resources were very helpful to me as I wrestled with all of this in seminary. The first was the senior sermon preached to my class by Gordon Hugenberger of Park Street Church. The sermon was based on John the Baptist’s words “I freely confess I am not the Christ.” Hugenberger’s point to a group of soon-to-be pastors was simple. “Look, you are just the best man, not the groom. You are not the Messiah. Don’t act like it. Don’t let people force you to be something you are not. Don’t let them expect too much from you. Confess to yourself and to your people: I am not the Christ.” I still have a copy of the sermon (thanks Joey) and listen to it from time to time. Many pastors would do well to remember this humble and freeing confession. And many churchgoers would be thankful to have their pastors let up on all the “go do the mission of Jesus” sermons. He was the Christ after all and we are not.
You are not the Christ, I am not the Christ. Praise the Lord for that truth! All I ever have to be is what he made me (yes Amy Grant did sing some stuff way back when that was right on).
On top of all this, we need to make sure our exhortations to do more rise to the level of God’s glory and sink deep into the gospel. If the exhortations don’t culminate in the glory of God then the youth people and the evangelism people and the poverty people are not really after the same thing. They are just competing interest groups in your church or in your mind. And if the exhortations don’t go deep into the gospel (and they often don’t), then we are just beating up others and ourselves with utopian dreams and masochistic oughts.
The gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is of first importance after all. So don’t forget: God loves you. God forgives you. God redeems you. God keeps you. God was here before you and will be here long after you. The truth, the world, the church, the lost, the poor, the children are not dependent upon you.
His concluding paragraph is excellent!
No doubt some Christians need to be shaken out of their lethargy. I try to do that every Sunday morning and evening. But there are also a whole bunch of Christians who need to be set free from their performance-minded, law-keeping, world changing, participate-with-God-in-recreating-the-cosmos shackles. I promise you, some of the best people in your churches are getting tired. They don’t need another rah-rah pep talk. They don’t need to hear more statistics and more stories Sunday after Sunday about how bad everything is in the world. They need to hear about Christ’s death and resurrection. They need to hear how we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. They need to hear the old, old story once more. Because the secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us.
Read the entire post to get what he is trying to say. For my part I say, Amen, brother.