Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learn To Be Skinny, Follow Jesus

Here is an article in the Baptist Press that offers a great example of confusing the Christian life lived in one's secular vocation with involving the church to fulfill a role she was never called to do.
"More people are dying due to complications from obesity than alcohol and tobacco use combined. Why isn't the church at the forefront of this?"
-- West Virginia pastor Steve Willis
To be honest, I get tired of hearing about all of the things the church hasn't done. The SBC is a theologically conservative denomination of which I am a member. Yet this kind of thinking is just the conservative counterpart of theological Liberalism...another way to save our culture.
"We talk a lot about the heart, soul and mind, but we don't talk a whole lot about loving Him with all our strength," Willis told BP. "We have these covered-dish fellowship dinners where we pile on the food, and it's not godly. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. So we needed to address that.
Now I agree that Pastors must address whatever Scripture addresses and gluttony is something that must be dealt with.
"So we started working out, we started eating healthier, we started doing our Wednesday evening fellowship meals a little bit healthier, and K-LOVE started running the story of what we were doing," Willis said. "ABC picked it up, CNN picked it up, the national news wire picked it up and Jamie Oliver heard about it over in England."
This reminds me of the "Losing Weight for Jesus" class that is offered in many churches today. Just one more of the many self-help programs that we stamp Jesus' Name to justify our church's existence.

The story goes on to explain how the "film crew" dictated what was to be preached.
The film crew asked Willis to preach again his sermon addressing obesity, and part of that is included in the show.

"Then they show me working with a family in the church, some visitation I've been doing. One of the families that goes to the church was having some health problems due to dietary issues and a lack of exercise. Then they start focusing on that family and how we're trying to get them healthier," Willis said.
There you have it. The mission of the church is to get people healthier.
"We are just trying to raise awareness," Willis said.
So we have one more thing that will be seen as the church's fault. One more duty and one more program to keep people busy. One more campaign to save men. In this case, to save them from fatness.


Jenny said...

Have you listened to the pastor's sermon or are just being another one of the Pharisees who enjoys judging before trying to understand? Seriously. I went to the church's website and listened to exact sermon that was delivered for the team from ABC. Obviously the film crew edited out parts of the sermon, but if you'll listen to the sermon in its entirety, you'll hear the gospel was clearly preached. No doubt the film crew heard about Christ that day!

If we had more pastors like the one on the show, maybe more people would hear the gospel in a way they can understand. If you have any integrity, you'll print a retraction after you listen to the sermon.

Jenny said...

Here's the link to the church's website. You should really be ashamed of yourself. The first 10 minutes could be used to set up any counter-cultural issue including homosexuality, pluralism, syncretism -- it's a great sermon and clearly presents the gospel in a way that is needed in our culture.

I am trying not to judge you, but clearly you wrote before you were informed.

Howard Fisher said...

Thanks for the comment Jenny. I think you missed my point. I was not commenting on the sermon, but instead commenting on how churches get on the different fads of whatever cultural decay they see. Then attempt to save the culture from that particular decay.

Now in one sense, this is a good thing. We should be concerned about cultural decay. However, it is not the church's primary duty to save the culture. That is why I pointed to the example of programs that teach people how to lose weight for Jesus or how to balance a check book for Jesus or how to.... As important as these things are, I could just as easily learn how to lose weight from a secular atheist Weight Watchers person or learn how to have a good marriage from a Jew.

Now I suppose you could argue that churches use different means to reach out to their communities. That may be a good idea. Yet I find that this sort of thing turns the Gospel into an idea that Jesus can save you from (name whatever). Jesus becomes experiential instead of a proclamation of what Christ has done.

Before you judge me too harshly (a pharisee and all) perhaps I should state it another way. Can you really picture the Apostle Paul using this method?

God Bless

John said...

Although I wouldn't call you a Pharisee, overall I agree with Jenny. Doesn't the Bible say you shouldn't bring an accusation against a pastor unless you have two or three witnesses? Pharisees accused Jesus unfairly and if you didn't listen to the sermon, I believe you would fall into that category.

You say you were commenting on how churches jump on fads -- but ABC called him. Didn't you read the entire article? The culture is following the church's lead -- isn't that a good thing? He is not saying what the world is telling him to say -- He's preaching the Word of God.

At the very least you should have watched the show and listened to his sermon before you judged him. I was proud to call myself a Baptist.

I listened to the sermon and he makes the very same point you are making. His point is that Christians should NOT be influenced by their culture but instead be influenced by the Bible. He says that if we don't take care of our bodies it makes us look like hypocrites. And yes, Paul did this type of thing all the time and so did Jesus. The Corinthians were abusing their bodies through various means and Paul says to stop. He didn't do it to jump on a bandwagon, he did it because that's what God wants them to do.

Like I said, if you read the story in Baptist press, ABC called the pastor -- not the other way around. His Biblical message was out there a year before ABC came into the picture and so do we condemn him for allowing them to show excerpts of the sermon? If the world sees the church in a good light for once, and the church doesn't compromise its message, isn't that a good thing?

Let your light shine before men so they will see your good works and glorify your God in heaven. That's what is happening here and I really think you should apologize for criticizing a specific pastor publicly. It's one thing to make a general statement, but you went after him.

I don't know how many people will read this blog, but you really should apologize for attacking him personally. He was not addressing the culture of the USA, he was addressing the culture within his own church. Did you see all the overweight people in his congregation? Would you rather he not confront them about this? You better believe the Apostle Paul would have done the same thing!

Howard Fisher said...

Now I could be wrong. It could very well be that the church was simply minding its own business. The people in that church were simply encouraging each other to eat less and exercise more often. It could be that no exercise programs or no losing weight for Jesus classes or anything of that sort was happening. It could be that losing weight was simply an issue raised in one sermon or two.

We have in history heard of bars closing down because men were converted to Christ without any reference to drinking at all in sermons that were preached. Perhaps the same is here.

We have heard of cultures where adultery and stealing were rampant. And due to a preacher preaching Christ crucified, men on their own, stopped behaving badly.

Perhaps this is exactly what is going on here. However, I am simply interacting with a news story.

you really should apologize for attacking him personally.

Okay. I can see how you would take this personally, but I am not actually talking about him personally. I am interacting with an Baptist Press article that was illustrating a point we all see time and again.

I realize that ABC contacted the pastor of this particular church. ABC also contacts other churches like Saddleback and so forth. They also get interviewed about things like saving the planet. The point of the post would just as easily apply to that.

Which is why I quoted this statement,

"More people are dying due to complications from obesity than alcohol and tobacco use combined. Why isn't the church at the forefront of this?"

It is the statement "Why isn't the church at the forefront of this?" that I was commenting upon. This is nothing personal! You may take it personally. It is not personal. The article directly states,

The film crew asked Willis to preach again his sermon addressing obesity, and part of that is included in the show.

I have nothing against the sermon personally. It may be the best sermon in the world. Again, that was not my point. In fact, I am glad that the pastor is addressing the issue with his church. But AGAIN, that is not my point!

It's one thing to make a general statement, but you went after him.

I did not go after anybody. He was quoted in the article, so that is why he is mentioned. This is not personal. The point I was making was the larger point that we have a tendency in evangelicalism to go after issues that are just as easily dealt with by non-Christians.

Think with me for a moment. Is there anything in the article that was particularly Christian? Where does Jesus and the Apostles teach that we need to be in the forefront of obesity or alcohol or whatever?

You attempt to make it sound as if this is merely an issue that a pastor is dealing with in his own congregation and not the culture as a whole, even if that culture is localized to the city in which he lives.

If you are accurate in that this is a private church matter, then why is the news trying to make a story on it?

One last time. My main point is that this sort of thing confuses the duty of the church proclaim the Gospel and teaching all that Christ commands, baptizing and communion and prayer and the singing of hymns, song ect., WITH our secular callings and duties and lives.

If I am in error, then why the news story? That is the issue, we probably have a very different view of what churches are to be doing and what makes a church successful. IMO, the churches that may never be mentioned in the news may be the churches simply doing what Christ has called them to do.

Howard Fisher said...

The culture is following the church's lead -- isn't that a good thing?

BTW: this statement is exactly my point. I am not interested in saving the culture. It may be a good thing, but it is not the duty of the church.