Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mediocre News

In his recent book The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren talks briefly about people backing away from churches because the churches preach bad news or mediocre news.

"Bad news" is an easy target. I think it's nicely captured by Philip Yancey's story about the desperate prostitute who didn't see why she would go to a church since she was already feeling bad about herself. It's church as a way of the "righteous" telling people "why I'm better than you" to use Donald Miller's characterization of morality gone wrong. There are, of course, plenty of other forms of bad news preaching, but the churches with which I'm involved tend not to have a problem with them, so I'm not going to go into that.

"Mediocre news" on the other hand is a bit harder to pinpoint but could be an even bigger problem, especially among relatively liberal churches. For churches that are embarrased to speak about life after death, the gospel can be one slippery critter. I definitely think that the shift of emphasis to the here and now, the gospel of the kingdom of heaven as a present reality, is a very good thing. But we have to be careful to keep sight of what the really good news is.

The reason I'm making this exploration is that I struggle with dissatisfaction brought on by mediocre news. I can easily avoid churches that preach bad news, but finding one that preaches truly good news, a gospel that I get excited about, is turning out to be a bit of a trick.

This is one of my complaints with the "God has a wonderful plan for your life" theology. It's just really not that wonderful. Yes, given belief in a Supreme Being, it is nice to know that the Supreme Being has noticed me and even wants a relationship with me. But it's just not enough.

Last week I talked about the recognition of the reality of things like the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Developing that idea further, for thinking people who read the newspaper and care about the mass destruction of human life, the news that God has a plan for my life by itself is hopelessly inadequate. There has to be more. Otherwise, Christianity becomes mere narcissism

For me, the good news of Christianity has to be centered in God's promise of new heavens and a new earth. I have to hear that God is actively involved in the renewal and restoration of all creation. I have to know that the one seated on the throne is making all things new. Anything less is mediocre news.


Inheritor of Heaven said...

I wonder if those who think the preaching is all "bad news" are really listening. When hearing about holy living and repentance, do they shut their ears because this sounds like bad news? Do they miss the good news that we are all sinners and that repentance is made possible by the Holy Spirit of God and forgiveness is available and given because of Christ? Or is that good news never gotten to by the preacher? There is a vast difference between the two, one leading the person to life the other stranding them in death.
Perhaps mediocre news is what one gets in institutional, social-club churches? Would that be the same as lukewarm news?

Andy said...

There's definitely a distinction to be made between proper preaching of the law and "bad news" preaching. The "bad news" problem is captured nicely in an article Rod Rosenbladt wrote called Christ Died for the Sins of Christians Too.

I would also add that nearly all rapture-oriented preaching is essentially bad news, with a loophole that is hardly consolation for those who truly care about others.