Everybody who has ever been to an outreach program or heard an evangelist preach has probably heard about this God-shaped hole within human beings. You know, the one that we try to fill with drugs, alcohol, sex, success, money, family, sports cars, vacation homes, hot tubs, dark wash jeans, jazzy scarfs, and I think you get the drift. And then the evangelist will drop the punch line: the only way you are ever going to feel fulfillment in life is if you stop filling yourselves with things that don’t fit the hole, and instead put God in there. You will then feel complete and be quite happy with your decision not only today, but for the rest of your life. I would rather not admit this, but I preached a very similar sermon when I was in high school to a junior high youth group. I remember it vividly, and it has come back to haunt me.
Some may be wondering why I would be haunted by preaching this sermon. Every pastor has preached it or seemingly anyways. Others may know where I am going with this. I guess that the only way I know how to describe this need-based gospel is that it disgusts me. I find it so manipulative. We spend so much time convincing people that they have this need and the only way to fill it is God. I am not a marketing guru by any means, but I do know that this is the strategy of those in marketing. Create a need in the consumer and then sell them the product that will bring them to completion or fulfillment. We are turning the church into a warehouse, distributing the gospel of Jesus Christ to meet this need in people’s lives that we have created them to feel. We have resorted to selling Jesus to people and because we have commodified Jesus, making him simply an object, there is no need for a relationship. In this manner, Jesus meets a need; that’s all we need him for.
I read the new testament and the way the gospel is presented and those evangelizing seem very unconcerned with trying to persuade people of this need that they have within them. They simply share their experience of God – the salvation story culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most of the time I feel as if our methods of presenting the gospel are about creating an airtight case so that there is no way that people can reject it. If we only have answers to all their questions then they will become a Christian. If we can only make them realize this need, then they will become a Christian. And then we throw this nice Christian word ‘convict’ to label it. We aren’t creating a need, we are simply convicting them. BS.
Maybe we should be more concerned with testifying to, bearing witness to our experience of God. At least nobody can refute our experience. Our transformation. How we now live, not only in word, but also in deed. And then, we won’t have to reduce the gospel to the latest marketing technique. And we don’t have to worry about having all the answers. If anything, in doing this, we aren’t necessarily convicting them, but rather we are making them aware of the work that God has already done and is currently doing in their lives. They don’t need to be reminded about their sinfulness. But they do need to know that God is already in their lives.