Staying spiritually fit in a fast-food-para-faith culture.
About a year ago, a friend from work was telling me that she was looking for a church to go to. She’d grown up in the church but had drifted away from the Lord as an adult and was now looking to get back into a healthy new “walking” routine with God.
Of course, I jumped at the chance to invite her to Fair Oaks Church (www.LoudOnPurpose.com) where my family worships every week, but she and I were commuting into our office from opposite directions and it would have been a 90 minute drive for her. She was also troubled by her husband’s active resistance to the idea of going to church and was hesitant to begin a routine of abandoning him every Sunday.
Although I certainly encouraged her to find a church in her community where she could have real fellowship with a community of brothers and sisters in Christ who would be a support for her as she grows in her faith and encourages her husband, I also suggested to her that she check out Fair Oaks Church’s weekly podcasts and webcasts which she can watch whenever she wanted and perhaps generate some interest with her husband right at home.
Fast forward one year and my friend is hooked on the podcasts and webcasts from Fair Oaks Church. Over the year we’ve had some great conversations about Pastor Stokes sermons, but she definitely recognized the need to be a part of a local church community and started attending a church in her area.
After attending her new church 6 or 7 times, she shared a concern/frustration with me asked me if I thought it was a real issue or if she was just being over critical. She said that in all the weeks she’d been going there, the pastor was preaching almost exclusively from the book(s) of Joel Olsteen. “Not that I have any objection to Joel Olsteen,” she said, “he’s got a great ministry and a great message, but not once since I’ve been going there have they actually quoted the Bible… just Joel.”
This is definitely a problem.
There are a lot of great preachers out there with large public ministries… plenty of books, television shows, radio broadcasts, and Cyber Churches to complement someone’s faith walk, but they should never be a person’s exclusive source spiritual nutrition. So this is how I counseled my friend….
Joel Olsteen (Max Lucado, Rick Warren, etc.) may have great messages that speak God’s Truth and are inspired by scripture, but they’re like a kind of junk food for the soul – a triple bacon cheese burger with a large fry and a chocolate milkshake will make you feel really good while you’re eating it, and it does actually have nutritional value – meat, bread, vegetable, dairy – but if you ate that every day and nothing else you wouldn’t be very healthy. The Bible is the daily sustenance needed for proper spiritual health and growth – the grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and multigrain bread with a tall glass of milk that we should be eating every day. Of course it’s okay to stop and get that bacon cheese burger every once and a while, as long as it’s not your steady diet.
I’m not an advocate of “church hopping” to find the perfect church – no church is perfect - but if your church never preaches the Word of God from the Word of God, I’d say that’s a fair reason to seek spiritual nutrition elsewhere.
My friend really appreciated the metaphor so I wanted to make sure I captured it somewhere. I’d love to take credit for it, but Pastor Jeff Reaves of Creekside Alliance Church had used it during a sermon several years ago when addressing an issue with one of our church’s small groups who had become little more than a book club and were no longer including scripture or praying in their meetings.
I thank God that my family was fortunate enough and blessed to find a church and a pastor who’s preaches from the Bible and I pray for my friend that she finds a church in her community that speaks the Word of God from the Word of God.