Jan 04 2012
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: Let's Try the Gospel

It's THE mysterious question.  Everyone in church culture is talking about it:  "Why are the kids leaving?"

And then the follow-up questions, "Should we start new programs?"  "Maybe we should have even awesome-r music?"  "Maybe we should rename our church something cool?" "Should our pastor try the half-tuck?"

Actually, if this researcher's right, and I suspect strongly she is, it has nothing to do with any of that. 

Kara Powell works with Fuller Youth Institute, and talks with Relevant Magazine about their extensive research:

The students involved in our research definitely tended to view the Gospel as a list of dos and do-nots, a list of behaviors. We asked our students when they were college juniors, “How would you define what it really means to be a Christian?” and one out of three—and these were all youth group students—didn’t mention Jesus Christ in their answer; they mentioned behaviors. So it seems like [young adults] have really picked up a behavioralist view of the Gospel. That’s problematic for a lot of reasons, but one of which is that when students fail to live up to those behaviors, then they end up running from God and the Church when they need both the most.

So youth group kids got the impression that the Gospel was about what we do, not what Jesus already did.  They went to church, and got the t-shirts, but they don't understand the Gospel.  We can blame THEM, of course - we love doing that, when people don't go for our programs - or we can wonder, did they ever really understand it?

Did they understand that because of what Jesus already did, God's approval of them is NOT based on their behavior?  Did they understand that Jesus knows that we cannot fulfill the law ourselves, and therefore fulfilled it for us?  Did they understand why He said, "It is finished!" and the temple veil was torn in two, once and for all?  Did they understand they are - truly, seriously, literally - no longer under the law?

Let's be honest:  Probably not.  Because when people actually hear the scandalous Gospel, they don't tend to forget it.  They can't.  If they "got it", they wouldn't, then, define what it means to be a Christian with behaviors. 


And, as a former youth minister, I can guess why they probably didn't hear it:  Because of the well-meaning hey-let's-not-get-too-crazy-with-the-grace folks, who think the radical message of grace needs "balanced", lest people, you know, go nuts and start having sex and killing people simply because their Sunday School teacher convinced them of how good God is.  Thing is, that grace, through the Holy Spirit, actually CHANGES people.  Once they grasp how wonderful it is, how - truly! - amazing grace really is, they don't tend to start sport-hunting humans.  They are changed, with a faith that lasts, yes, even through four years of glorious brokenness and learning at State Tech.

We want to control people.  But, there's a problem: We can't control people. 

You can make a slave out of someone, sure - but even then, you can't control his heart.  Perhaps his heart could be won by the shocking love of God, the one that sets him free of religous tyranny, once and for all?

So I say we go all in.  Let's tell them.  Let's go ahead and give people the Gospel, the whole, stunning, wonderful thing, and take our chance that God wins their hearts.  The risk of telling them the truth, of course, about how GOOD the "Good News" is, is that they'll go morally crazy, which, as we noted, when people "get" grace, doesn't tend to happen.  (I realize my parents love me unconditionally.  This makes me want to please them.)

If we tell them the Gospel, which is anti-moralistic, they will not confuse Jesus with moralism. Good thing, too, because moralism is boring.  And it doesn't work.  And it's a lie.  There's that, too.

The risk of NOT telling them is this: They grow up thinking Jesus is just another religion, and they suspect they are moral failures, and go through life missing out on the romance they were made for with their Creator.  They'll feel like their beating their heads against a wall, constantly playing a morals game, with the sneaking suspicion they're not really winning.  They'll either become Pharisees, or, worse... they'll just walk away.  (Wait, is that worse...?)

And, by the way, that last scenario...?  It's happening all the time.  So let's go ahead and try the Good News. 

Oh - one more reason to go ahead and tell them the whole, scandalous, amazing truth about the Gospel: 

It's true.

Dec 27 2011
If Jesus Had a Blog: I Told This Great Story About a Samaritan Guy and People Didn't Really Like It

What up.

Frustrating:  STILL no WiFi in Nazareth, so we had to walk all the way to Caesarea to get to this sweet Panera.  We had enough shekels for some coffee, but the guys wanted me to go all "loaves and fishes" on the caramel biscotti.

Not happening.

Anyway, just got done talking to this guy who was all, "What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?"  Great question, but when I started talking to him, and mentioned loving his neighbor, he got a little defensive, so he asked, "Well, who's my neighbor?"

I told a story (By the way, enough with the movie clips. Just tell a story. Best. Teaching. Device. EVER.) and it's about a guy who gets attacked and left by a roadside.  A religious leader walks by, and doesn't help. And then this Levite walks by, and doesn't help, and then a Samaritan comes by and totally takes care of him.

Didn't go over that well.

Well, apparently, Peter "needs" the laptop, so I'm out. He's got this "singing" goat video he keeps making everybody watch. It IS pretty funny.

Posted:  Today at 3:34 p.m.


Hey Jesus... love the blog.  And I know you MEAN well, and making a Samaritan the "good guy" is for shock value, but you've got to remember, you've got a lot of young people who follow you, and they could get the wrong impression. 

We all know that Samaritans believe a lot of wrong things. They are nice people, I'm sure, but their doctrine is TOTALLY fouled up. By making a Samaritan the star, you sound like you're saying it's more important to "love" people than to believe the right doctrinal things. 

I'm sure you don't mean that. 

Just something to think about :)

-- sunny_ames34

Hey "sunny_ames34":  I think he totally means that.

-- the4joneses

I know it's not the point, but I'd like to just say I'm a little disappointed you guys watch stuff on YouTube.  Yes, I know there's nothing wrong with the cute singing goat video - not that I've seen it - but YouTube has a lot of other bad stuff on it - which I also haven't seen. 

Just kinda disappointed you're apparently endorsing everything this secular organization does.  Please read more on personal holiness at my blog: holy4jesus.blogspot.com

-- sally83

Sally, just kinda disappointed you're endorsing "blospot".

-- pre262

Well, I can't say I'm surprised, here, Jesus. This just tops it, for me. You tell a story and the BAD guys are the preachers and religious leaders?  And the good guy is a guy who doesn't even know the right place or way to worship God?  Wow.

Just wow.

Our leaders try hard, and and they help us try hard, and they are men of God, and we respect them for that. They have a lot of charisma and personality and they know so much. Leave them alone, unless that is, you want us to think NO ONE but YOU is good, and only YOU should be our Teacher?

-- grace2u

Is this where I sign up for the seafood giveaway?  I heard you were doing a big seafood giveaway. Sorry if wrong thread.

-- elly1972

This is great.  Thank you, Lord, for making things so simple. I don't envy you. Simpicity makes experts mad. Always will.

You are my Teacher, and I heard your story.  And I now know all the expertise in the world, all the "authority" in the religious world, all the busy-ness that comes to religion - all are meaningless, distracting, even OFFENSIVE, when not coupled with extreme humility and love and true servant-heartedness.

Beautiful. Reminds me of how often I've driven past my neighbors' home en route to another church planning session, or practice, or church event designed to - you guessed it - "reach our neighbors".  They sure keep us busy, don't they?

Thank you, once again, for setting me straight.  It frees me, honestly.  So simple!  Boy

-- c_dyson12

JESUS, you make me angry.

But it's a good anger, and a righteous anger I have.  Because I'm totally sure I'm right.

-- jasecase

Well, Jesus, I appreciate what you're saying, I guess. But let's be honest: While you're making the religious leaders the bad guys in this story, you NEED them. You need their talents, their special abilities, their speaking skills, etc., to get your word out. Without talented religious people, do you think the Kingdom would really advance?


-- DTS_class2008

Guys, you're jumping all over Jesus here, and that's not his point. His point is that we need accountability groups, and possibly an additional Bible study each week.

-- atlanta239

That's not his point.  His point is that we need GOD back in our schools, and back in our government, and people just need to deal with it.  RIGHT. NOW.  BEFORE WE LOSE THIS COUNTRY.

-- katyinfla

Hey "atlanta239", I live in Marrietta, and could join a Bible study. I have church stuff on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. And Wednesday and Saturday/Sunday, but Friday is open.  Wait - it's not.

-- go_dawgs4040

So, Jesus, apparently I can be wrong about all sorts of stuff, but if I love God and love my neighbor, that's all that matters, like it just sums everything up.

This is the kind of feel-goodism that's killing our great churches.

-- Bible_BillJ

jesus pls help me love peopl like u do

-- horsegurl9

Dec 11 2011
If Jesus Had a Blog: The Good News is Getting Out!

(From Brant... an explainer, for those new to the series:  The "comments" directly below are NOT real.  They're just my best guesses, if Jesus had a blog, what the comments would look like.) 


If Jesus Had a Blog


What up.  

Man, it's a busy time of year. It's time to celebrate my birth, I guess, so everyone's doing what you'd expect in response - the only logical option:  Guzzling egg nog and singing about Frosty the Snowman. 

I have noticed there are people passing, children laughing, and I'm greeting smile after smile. So that's nice.

(It's all awesome, but you know what really frosts me?  When the people at the Jerusalem Costco say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".  MAN, that sets me off.  I hope my followers, thousands of years from now, make a huge, huge deal out of that, in keeping with my teachings regarding Christmas and stuff.  Okay, so I'm being sarcastic.  This isn't the first time, folks.)


Anyways, it's all good, and here's my real point:  I'm pretty stoked, because I sent more followers out today to tell the good news!  And here's the news:  The Kingdom of God is near!

Some are catching on that I'm the Messiah, because they see the evidence:  Blind people getting their sight back!  Deaf people getting their hearing!  Lepers now clean!  And the good news is getting out to poor people!






I'm sorry, Jesus, but last time I checked, that wasn't the "Good News".  You don't tell the whole story. 

The Good News is that I got my ticket to Gloryland!

-- sharon777

So...when Jesus shares the Good News with the poor, he's supposed to say, "Hey, everybody, Sharon777 got her ticket to Gloryland!" ??

I mean, we know you're important, Sharon, but...

-- julsmith20

I'm with sharon777.  The Good News is that Jesus died for us, and we can accept him and go to heaven.  It bothers me that this blog entry doesn't reflect that.  I'm not even sure what all the "kingdom" talk is about, but it's not the Gospel. 

-- prayerwarrior4god

Sarcasm isn't very Christian, Jesus.

-- nicole_1985

Excuse me, but my church has BIBLE studies, BIBLE preaching, BIBLE class, Vacation BIBLE School...and I have no idea what you're talking about.  So something is really wrong, and I'm just going to presume it's you.

-- liz2

So, I know this wasn't your main point, but you act like it's no big deal that stores won't say, "Merry Christmas."  I think it's time we took a stand, before it's too late to win our country back.

Didn't you tell us to "take a stand" to win our country back?

-- momof4

Right on, "momof4".  I was at Walgreen's this week, buying one of those massive inflatable lawn ornaments, and the lady behind the counter was all like, "Have a great holiday" and man, that burned me up. 

I think it totally takes the focus off of you, Baby Jesus.

-- cindysue12

I don't like the implicit message in this blog entry, here, J.  If God's "kingdom" is "good news", it means we're supposed to want him in charge of everything, like some kind of king.  Not only is this sexist/monarchist, it implies I'm merely his "subject" and I'm supposed to advance his agenda.  How's that "Good News"?

The implications for this are huge.  I like calling my own shots.   I don't serve a demanding "god" who threatens this kind of stuff.  I'm done with this website.

Does Baby Jesus have a blog?

-- goblue32

I think you guys are missing something important here.  He says in his last line that the "good news" is getting to the poor, and that's evidence he is God's chosen one. 

THAT, to me, is the offensive thing.  It shouldn't make a difference whether someone is poor or not.  Our church targets rich people in the Dallas suburbs, because -- guess what -- we're rich people in the Dallas suburbs.  We spend $14 million a year to reach ourselves, and there's nothing wrong with this at all, because God loves us, too.

Yes, poor people matter, but no more than anyone else, and it's not like God has some kind of special relationship with them.

-- howboutthemboys96

Actually, I think Jesus is saying he does have some kind of special relationship with them. 

-- annie21

Well, the God *I* worship doesn't look at people differently just because one has money and power and the other doesn't.

-- howboutthemboys96

I'm sure that's true.

-- annie21

You're a pinko lefty.

-- howboutthemboys96

You're probably so dim-witted you voted for McCain/Palin.

-- annie21

Hey, I like Sarah Palin.  She's a Christian, like Tim Tebow.  And he's super-nice, I think.

-- trish

Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house.  Embarrassing.  I don't vote for backward Wal-Mart shoppers.  Sorry.

-- bob239

Hey "bob239", Palin didn't say that, Tina Fey did.  Doof.

BTW, Wal-Mart employs a lot of people, and does this country a lot of good, which is more than I can say for Barack HUSSEIN Obama.

-- dwj

I agree with dwj.  We spend way too much time criticizing Wal-Mart, when we should be trying to find Barack's ACTUAL and REAL birth certificate.  Whoever voted for him is stupid.

-- mike_m

Actually...your stupid.

-- carrieanddave2002

Actually...YOU'RE stupid, because you "actually" don't know how to use apostrophes.

-- mike_m

ddear jesus

i hope you are king here soon like you r in heaven

-- horsegurl9