Self-Help or Transformation?
“Talking shop” with some fellow clergy, we were discussing the question, “What is the biggest block to real Christian discipleship in our churches?” Rather quickly, we agreed that the biggest barrier is that most folks come to church expecting a self-help session.
We don’t say it that way. And when put so starkly, we would quickly realize that is at best an inadequate description of what church is to be. Yet, we come looking for strength to get through the week, a little inspiration to help me be a better person, etc. Sadly, the church has often functioned as a self-help resource, so we have come to expect it.
Please know that we did not say this to be critical. In fact, we quickly noted that people expect this because the church has, in many ways, operated on a “therapeutic” model, just trying to help people be a little better than they were. We, the leaders of the church, have all too often tried to deliver self-help talks masquerading as sermons, so we should not be surprised that people have come to expect it.
Sunday’s lessons, especially Matthew and Romans, remind us in no uncertain terms that Christian faith is not about helping us be slightly better people tomorrow (although that should happen), but rather is about completely transforming us into different people.
In the lesson from Romans, Paul reminds us that we are to die to self and die to sin in order that we might live for Christ. In the Matthew lesson, Jesus says plainly, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
In the course of this human life, we experience this transformation for the most part incrementally (though there are sometimes moments of major transformation), but we must come to our faith seeking that transformation or all we will ever find is a self-help talk or an inspirational meme and, eventually, we will encounter problems that will not address.
When you come to church on Sunday, remember that what you seek is not a spiritual “Red Bull” to get you through the week, but transformation!
This column appeared in the June 21, 2020 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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