Does the Christian life require unpopularity and self-sacrifice?

This post on Eric Chabot’s Think Apologetics blog made me think of someone I’ve been talking to about her life plan. He lists out the components of the gospel in long-form, then asks whether millenials are hearing that in church.


What Gospel are millennials hearing? The “Jesus will meet all my needs” Gospel?

To summarize  “The Kerygma” of the early Christian community:

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4. Jesus conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God ( Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Acts 2:23).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized because of the finished work of Jesus (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20).

Conclusion: If millennials are hearing a Gospel that doesn’t mention any of these points, they aren’t hearing the Gospel at all!

[…]Churches need to emphasize that we are called to be servants. Hence, we are looking for Servants! And this means there will be self denial. And he (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.– Luke 9:23.

Do you know what this mean to its original hearers? The cross may be viewed as a symbol of love. But when we look at the first century context, to a Jewish person the cross was not a badge of honor but instead a sign of rejection and embarrassment. In other words, the cross meant misunderstanding, rejection by others, ridicule, etc. In other words, to take up our cross is death to our own reputations, our honor and how we are perceived by others.

In a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems. And when things get tough, many people bail out. A long-term commitment to our Lord which involves self denial (Luke 9:23) is hard to swallow for millennials who have been told The American Dream is the way of happiness. 

I think we need to warn young people that just being willing to serve God does not reward bad planning. I know people in full-time ministry now who are facing a very challenging environment with fewer and fewer donations. It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew, and then blame God for not following through.

I think in my own life, I’ve probably been too defensive, but I still think I’ve been able to score points while on defense. I never believed that I could make risky decisions and then have God automatically bail me out. I just tried to serve the best I could, within the bounds of prudence and frugality. I guess I am trying to say that I can easily see how being overly ambitious could end badly, and I would hate to see someone bail out on God because they incorrectly thought that he would reward sincere desires with happiness. In the real world, what produces results is good planning and accurate budgets. Count the cost.

4 thoughts on “Does the Christian life require unpopularity and self-sacrifice?”

  1. I have a friend from college who, sadly, bailed out on Christianity whenever adversity hit her life. She was wrapped up in Charismatic theology and instead of viewing her false beliefs as the problem, she blamed God. By the way, I am not knocking Charismatic Christians as a whole; there are just some who have staked their identity in Christ with the “what is God gonna do for me today?” approach.


  2. By the very term “charisma” we identify ALL true Christians. Being “born again” is the process of the “charisma,” the Spirit,entering our hearts and creating saving faith in us. It is that same Spirit who moves other to respond when we tell the good news, evangelize. To look at success or failure by our RESULTS is to believe that we must do the job of the Spirit. Sometimes we will reap 100 fold, sometimes 60, sometime 30 and sometimes NOT AT ALL. The challenge is not to take it personally or to look at winning souls as a number game. It’s only our responsibility to tell the good news. The rest depends on the Spirit and the hardness of the hearts who hear the message.

    I have had many good friends who were ministers and found themselves released from their positions for various reasons. All of the were faithful to their calling. But, often, God decides there is a more important task for them, sometimes a task that they can’t do from a pulpit. One former fellow pastor found his calling inside a penitentiary as an incarcerated man. He rejoice to be given the opportunity to witness as had St. Paul, Peter and John, among others.

    Certainly, we need try to prepare before we jump into something. But sometimes God asks us to step out in faith. Sometimes, when we fail, God was testing us to he how much we trust him and we didn’t fair too well. But we will get another opportunity, and another, and another, and we will grow to become we he wants us to be. Recall that St. Paul had an argument with Barnabas about taking Mark along on his second trip because Mark had had cold feet on the first trip. So they split and Barnabas took Mark, who, in the end, turned out to be of great value in the ministry.


  3. I hear you on the defensiveness part, brother, but pathological risk-aversion isn’t without its benefits.


  4. Thanks for posting Wintery. I am not against bad planning. Sometimes people assume when they decide to do vocational ministry that if God has called them, he will provide. In many cases, he does. But we have to do our part in looking for people that want to support us. It takes hard work, thinking, marketing, etc….Lots of people just want to get out there and do the ministry part and not raise the funds. It doesn’t work that way.


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