A Welfare Gospel?
We have all heard about the ‘health and wealth gospel’, and we have been aware of its pitfalls. Its main problem is to interpret different genres of the Bible as prescriptive and to claim all of them as promises of God, even though it is clear that certain genres like Proverbs are never meant to do so. Our faith, thus are not and should not be hinged on the outcomes of whether we are healthy or wealthy as a result.
As much as we are aware of the ‘health and wealth gospel’, we must also be increasing careful of what I call the ‘welfare gospel’. We understand very well that the Gospel from from our Lord Jesus Christ is a whole gospel. It does not just address the spiritual aspect of our lives, but also the physical, social and even economical aspects of life. Basically, Jesus met the people at their points of need. However, we also know that Jesus never stopped there. He would then move on to meet their spiritual needs. This is the whole gospel ministering to the whole person. While it is commendable that the church today are engaging more in social services, we must be careful that it is not an end to itself. By observations, the church is winning more converts through social services than friendship today. This poses a new challenge for us too. More people are coming to church because of certain benefits that they received. If the church fail to move these people from their physical needs to spiritual needs, these people would end up treating God like an ATM machine. They would always be making demands in the church rather than learning to give and serve. As a result, the church may be constrained by this ‘welfare gospel’ they are offering.
It is therefore vital for the church to disciple this group properly. We must disciple them to move from need-centred to Christ-centred. We need to be careful not to be too caught up with serving them that they continue to live their old lives. As much as the church is doing well with their social services, let us keep our focus to make these services a godly one. Never forget that our purpose is to make disciples and not just doing good.
The ‘Me’ Gospel
We often share that Jesus would die for us even if we were the only person on earth. No doubt, Jesus would surely die for us. But we must be careful not to emphasize too much on ‘ME’. When sharing the Gospel, we often stress how much God love the person. We tell the person that God would bless him and help him. We portray the meaning that Jesus would solve every problem and our lives would get easier. But do these form an accurate picture of the Gospel? Sometimes we leave out mentioning the need for repentance and the Lordship of Jesus so that it is easier for the person to accept the Gospel. We try to paint a nice picture so that people can accept Jesus more easily. However, we run the risk of not preaching the Gospel correctly.
While Jesus is prepared to die for any person, we must bear in mind that Jesus died for the whole world. God’s love is universal and directed towards every person on this earth, including those who have yet know Him. Therefore, we must be careful not to make the person think that the whole world revolve around him. If not, the person would still be self-centred and would demand people to love him and give him whatever he demands. We see many of these cases happening in churches today. Though they claim to be Christians, they still live for themselves rather than God. They expect others to pamper them according to their demands. When these demands are not met, they criticize the church and its leaders.
Jesus never said that He would solve all our problems. He never said that our lives would be easier. In fact, we have to deny ourselves, carry our cross and follow Him. But have we share the Gospel correctly? Or we try to cover up some facts?
The problem here may probably be rectified by proper follow-up. It would be good if we are able to explain the Gospel to the believers again so that they grasp the true essence of the Gospel. But this is not enough. As suggested earlier, this problem can probably be traced back to the way we share the Gospel. Perhaps, with the emphasis on individual rights and the urgency for church growth, we have not only watered down the Gospel, we have also emphasised too much on the individual. As such, the person become more important than God.
While bringing people to Christ, let us make sure that they have a correct understanding of the Gospel. Let us not rush to make people say the sinner’s prayer too easily. It is always worthwhile to invest more time to make sure a person knows what he is believing. Well, church growth may be slower, but we would have a more committed group of believers who live their lives to glorify God.