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Why We Evangelicals Need a "12-Step" Intervention

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I did not know whether to laugh or cry.

A cellphone video is making the rounds on social media showing Victoria Olsteen telling people that "when we obey God, we're not doing it for God... we're doing it for ourselves..."

As I get older, it gets painfully more apparent that if I want to be depressed, all I have to do is linger in front of the mirror...  I expressly remember looking at it recently and wondering who the heck let that old person in my house.  I looked with dismay yesterday at the black smock my barber threw over me before cutting my salt-and-pepper hair - which has a whole lot more salt than it used to.  That black smock makes what little pepper is left disappear.  No, ma'am, sorry but if Christianity is all about us I am not sure of what to make of those who call this the "Good News."

One of the things I want to do in this blog is blow up some of the stereotypes out there about Evangelical Christians - both in terms of our politics and what passes for "Christianity" (I am air quoting as I write) on TV these days.  The more I work in our community here in Mira Mesa with people from all walks of life the more I am confronted with the deep disconnect between how we Evangelicals see ourselves and how we are seen.  The first order of addressing that disconnect is getting involved with my neighbors - and then Olsteen goes on her riff about how it's all about us.

It's enough to send a guy screaming into the night.

So what I'll do is suggest that we Evangelicals desperately need a "12-Step" intervention.  I'll hyperlink to some passages from the New Testament so my non-Evangelical reader will understand some points of reference.  It'll be enough for me to provoke a little reflection on the part of those who share my faith.  I also hope to point out to those who do not that what you see on TV is careening further and further away from what most of us believe.

12 Steps to Faith and Community

Step #1: Describe for yourself the "celebrity culture."  For me it is about how we seem to want to live vicariously through the lives of others - which are, of course, manufactured for the media.  We replace real life interactions with more and more celebrity worship in the church of social media - and sometimes right there on Sunday morning itself!  We Evangelicals are not only not immune to this nonsense, in some ways we have perfected it.

Step #2: Ask yourself whether you are being conformed to this culture by social media, or are being transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:2).

Step #3: Read Hebrews 11.  Seriously; you can't take the next step until you take this one.  Click the link; it'll open a new window.  Read.

Step #4: Now listen to Victoria Olsteen and ask yourself whether what you just saw and heard bears even the slightest resemblance to what you just read.

Step #5: Read Hebrews 11 again.

Step #6: Think of the last time you really cheered on a sports team.  Try to find the video on YouTube.  Here's mine, with an absolutely hilarious dubbed over play by play of the Chargers beating the Steelers in the AFC championship game.  But before you enjoy your reverie too much, there's a test after whatever video you find is done.

Step #7:  Here's that test.  Ask yourself: Does Hebrews 11 allow you to sit comfortably calling the play-by-play?  Or does it call you to get your rear end off the couch and onto field to "run the race"?

Step #8: If you passed that test question, find someone who is discouraged, take them out for coffee and just listen to them for a while.  There are two things about this step: First, you WILL have to turn off the TV and put away your smart phone.  Sorry.  Second, you might discover why God gave us two ears and one mouth - that we might listen twice as much as we speak.

Step #9: Now read Hebrews 12:1.  Seriously; you can't take the next step until you take this one.  Click the link; it'll open a new window.  Read.

Step #10: Turn on 'Christian' TV again, but remember your discouraged friend. Consider the possibility that the "sin which so easily entangles" is the sin of being frivolous - It shouldn't be hard to get this after listening to your discouraged friend... it's right in front of you on TV.

Step #11: Read Hebrews 11 again. Now put yourself in the line of these heroes of faith in your spiritual race. Sorry, but the play-by-play and the seats in the stands are for those who have gone before us.

Step #12: However you pray, however you conceive of God, take this to Him in prayer for confirmation: If you want to guard yourself against the sin which so easily entangles, turn off the TV, stop worshiping your spiritual heroes and start becoming one!

Hi, my name is John and I am a recovering spiritual spectator...

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