In the book Jim and Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians Jim, a Christian, pays Casper, an atheist to attend church with him throughout one summer. They attend some of the best known churches in America, and the purpose is to see these churches through the eyes of an atheist. Casper admits that he is open to becoming a Christian if it can be proven to him that God exists, but at the end of the book that had not happened. There is much about the book that interested me, but one of the things I found most interesting was Casper's take on much of the preaching he heard in these churches. He was not impressed.
You're invited to read the book where the names of each church are given so I'll not mention names in this post. The prosperity message he heard in some of these churches made Casper angry. He said that rather than promoting hope they "make appeals to the worst in people. They appeal to people's greed, selfishness, envy, pride...." Unfortunately, he's right.
I've never attended any of the churches mentioned in this book, but I have heard plenty of that kind of preaching. The "health and wealth" gospel can draw large crowds, but does it change people's lives? I remember reading a review many years ago of one service with this kind of preaching The reviewer said the audience was made up of two kinds of people. There were people sitting there in their furs and diamonds, smiling and nodding in agreement and many more people writing furiously everything the speaker was saying hoping that they one day would also enjoy the financial benefits of giving to God.
My question to those who preach such messages is why are you not walking through hospitals healing the sick patients lying in the beds? Why don't you take your message to places such as Haiti or Iraq or Somalia and tell those people how God wants them to be rich? If your message won't preach in those places, it isn't the true gospel.
The Gospel is good news. It brings hope to those who hear it and receive it. It points people to Jesus Christ, not to BMWs, yachts, and Rolex watches. It offers forgiveness of sins and a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It doesn't promise that the believer will escape suffering, but it does promise that he or she will never walk through that suffering alone.
Pastor, what Gospel are you preaching? The Bible tells us that there will come a time when preachers will tickle the ears of the people telling them what they want to hear. I pray you are not doing that, but that you are preaching the only message that has the power to transform people's lives. Jesus said if he is lifted up that he will draw all people to him. I pray that you are lifting Jesus up in every message you preach. The people in Haiti and Iraq and Somalia need Jesus Christ, and so do the people in your community.