Every time we turn around there’s a new pastor/church/conference/book/podcast telling us that we are wholly inadequate in our commitment to Christ.
The formula is always the same:
- Talk about how Jesus was an insanely committed guy who lived his life on the brink of starvation and death to help others.
- Highlight how we American Christians are fat, lazy, shallow, uncommitted, and innately self-centered.
- Heighten awareness by finding stories about Christians (usually in third world or persecuted countries) that are not fat, lazy, shallow, uncommitted, and who live insanely committed lives on 3 cents a day and risk death to help others.
- Round out your thoughts by implying that “If you were really committed to Christ you would ________ (give more money), ________ (serve more), ________ (live more radically), ________ (believe more fervently), and ________ (visit dangerous places) just like Jesus and these other people around the world.”
Who wouldn’t feel fat, lazy, shallow, uncommitted, and innately self-centered after being bludgeoned by that?
The problem is American Christians eat this stuff up, and it has nothing to do with Jesus. It’s all about the formula.
Motivating With The “You’re Not Committed Enough” Guilt Trip
Imagine you became a little league baseball coach and were tasked with taking over a team of fourth graders and turning them into MLB superstars. What would you say to them to motivate them?
My hunch is you’d be tempted to…
- Talk about how Derek Jeter is an insanely committed guy who lives his whole life totally devoted to baseball. And they should too.
- Highlight how American fourth graders are fat, lazy, shallow, uncommitted, and innately self-centered.
- Heighten awareness by finding stories about fourth graders (usually in Cuba) who eat, drink, and breath baseball 24/7.
- Round out your thoughts by implying that “If you were really committed to baseball you would ________(throw the ball more), ________ (go to the batting cage 3x’s as often), and ________ (bug your parents to hire a personal trainer), just like A-Rod and Derek Jeter and all those kids in Cuba who would love to trade places with you.”
And the fourth graders would eat it up.
But would they actually get any better because of it?
Of course not.
Because growth, any growth, is always incremental – the proverbial three steps forward, one step back.
Rejecting The “You’re Not Committed Enough” Guilt Trip
The only thing the “You’re Not Committed Enough” Guilt Trip does is – produce guilt. Expose yourself to pastors/churches/conferences/books/podcasts that give this speech too much and eventually you’ll discover that the only thing you’ve excelled at is the time-honored Christian art of feeling like crap.
And that’s about it.
Spiritual improvement comes in spite of speeches like these, not because of them.
The problem is whether you’re coaching baseball or coaching new believers, giving people the “You’re Not Committed Enough” Guilt Trip as a way to motivate them to become better has the exact opposite effect.
Constantly exposed to such guilt trip formulas, Christians (or fourth grade wannabe all-stars) don’t become more radical, they become more defeated.
Looking for proof?
A Better Alternative
Look in the mirror.
How many formulaic guilt trip pastors/churches/conferences/books/podcasts have you been exposed to over the years? My guess is more than you’d care to admit?
Are you any more of an insanely committed Christ-follower having been exposed to them?
Of course not.
The reality is the most radical thing you can do today is obey Jesus in the next five minutes. That’s it.
I’m not sure what that will be.
I’m not sure how that will feel.
But I am quite positive that it will be small and no one will notice.
And I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
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