Note: Don’t be alarmed. The post title refers to a book, not my current state of health.
Last month I put out a post asking for book recommendations for a summer reading program one of our church deacons is starting up this summer to encourage reading in our congregation. Of course, we visualize taking up sound biblical materials. My leanings are towards theological works that have been well established – Christian classics. I submitted a fine list of books that aren’t heavy, dry or technical, written by a wide variety of well respected (and theologically orthodox) writers. Well, in a nutshell, my picks were shot down before they could take flight. My deacon friend doesn’t believe most people (that is, believing Christians in the church) will be interested in theology! This boggles my mind, frankly. I consider myself an ordinary fellow of average intellect. Yet, I have an unquenchable yearning for the knowledge of God. This comes from God’s call upon me to become his own possession, a beloved child in his vast, ever-expanding family. As such, I desire to know this God who has rescued me and washed me clean of all my sins. The doctrine of the bible is for the simple and unlearned as well as for the towering intellectual. Theology is not at heart a purely academic pursuit. It is the pursuit of God Almighty. I have a hard time grasping the concept that true believers don’t desire the same things. My yearning may be at a high level because of the calling on my life to teach eternal truths, but surely every believer wants to intimately know the God who saved them to some degree. Every Christian most certainly needs this knowledge to grow in the grace whereby they are saved.
Of course, I know where the deacon’s line of thinking stems from. It has flooded modern evangelicalism for decades now. The church growth\seeker-sensitive movement thrives on a non-doctrinal paradigm of Christian pragmatism. Don’t give church-goers what they need, give them what they want – in liberal doses. This pragmatic approach may attract multitudes of church-goers but does little to produce true disciples of Christ. So the wants of a typical church filled with ‘seekers’ (those who haven’t made any kind of commitment to Christ but are interested) do not match those in the church who are truly Christians. The focus of seeker-sensitive churches sits squarely upon the seeker and his carnal wants instead of the classic doctrines of the bible: teachings such as man’s sinfulness, God’s wrathful judgment against sin, the means of salvation and sanctification he has provided through Christ’s atoning work on the cross and the heart-changing ministry of the Holy Spirit. I suppose congregants who have no zest for doctrine and theology are considered ‘babes in Christ’ who need to be nurtured in a pastel colored nursery by coochie-coochie-coo care-takers that speak condescendingly about moral platitudes from the life of King David. Unfortunately, seeker-sensitive churches often have no plans to move toddlers out of the nursery. They keep them content with toys and entertainment.
With this picture of today’s church-goers burnt into the minds of so many pastors, teachers and Sunday School educators in all of evangelicalism It should be of little surprise that non-doctrinal books consistently top the sales charts. I present to you the latest Christian bestseller that promises life-changing results for every one blessed enough to get their hands on a copy. And yes, this is the volume our little book club will be reading this summer.
When my friend presented the book One Month to Live by mega-church Pastor Kerry Shook (and his wife Chris) to my class last week I initially reacted with indifference. I had never heard of it, so I was ignorant of its contents. I trusted his judgment and left it at that. However, several red flags have popped up as I’ve taken the time to look into it more deeply.
Red Flag#1: The sub-title. ‘Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life’. Hmm, I’m suddenly have flashbacks to Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life which was accompanied by a 40 Days of Purpose campaign. I’m sure there’s no correlation.. wait. What’s this? The official web site for the book has a section dedicated to the One Month to Live Challenge. This challenge takes three forms: Personal, church-wide and city-wide. Apparently over 3,500 hundred churches have participated so far. Wow! I had no clue this kind of movement had taken place. It has become wildly popular. Apparently, it’s been right under my nose. Check out this report form The Early Show on CBS about a whole town that took the challenge sometime last year. Clinton, OK is right down the road from where I live!
Red Flag#2: The forward of the book is written by the crown prince of purpose-driven pragmatism himself, Rick Warren. Not a good sign. Not only that, it has received written endorsements from Bill Hybels and Joel Osteen. Together these three influential pastors comprise the Three Amigos of Artificial Church Growth.
Red Flag#3 – The premise. The synopsis of the book appears to be focused on living life without regretting things left undone or unsaid. it seems to embrace a ‘bucket list’ mentality, only with a shiny coat of Christian veneer applied. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be the case. If so, that makes One Month to Live a book that belongs in the ‘Inspirational’ or ‘Self-Help’ section of the bookstore. A no-holds-barred life of doing everything we’ve always wanted to do runs against the grain of the life of self-denial and self-sacrifice that Christ demands of his disciples.
The flags are up and waving frenetically in my mind. I’m not making any judgments yet, but I’m bracing for disappointment. Maybe One Month to Live will surprise me… but probably not.
The question I have for my readers is this: Has your church or your community read through this book? Have you read it on your own? If so, please feel free to share your insights with me in the comment section. I would love to have a good idea how bumpy the terrain will be this summer.