The word on the street is that the church I pastor is “just a feel-good church.” I guess that makes me “just a feel-good pastor.” It wasn’t meant to be a compliment. So, it’s OK for James Brown (I Feel Good) or Chuck Mangione (Feels So Good) or Three Dog Night or Flo-Rida (Good Feelin’) to “feel good” but it’s not good for people who go to church to “feel good?” I don’t get it.
The fella who passed on to me the word he had heard had this commentary: “Who wants to feel good after going to church?” The kind of church I want to be a part of is one that makes you feel terrible!” I like that fella.
Why do we feel threatened by “feeling good?” What is in our theology that equates “feeling good” with “being bad”? How many of you who grew up in church grew up thinking, “If it feels good, it’s probably sin.” That’s Jack LaLanne thinking, not Jesus thinking. Do you remember Jack LaLanne? He’s the father of the modern fitness movement. One of his nutrition rules was, “If it tastes good, spit it out.” I guess his rule worked well. He lived til he was 96. Jesus seemed, though, to turn conventional wisdom upside down. Gain by losing. Lead by serving. Receive by giving.
So, what’s Jesus thinking when it comes to “feel-good” churches? We get a clue from the name we’ve given the 4 New Testament biographies of Jesus – the Gospels – which means “Good News.” This story of Jesus is “good” news, not “bad” news. When I hear good news I usually feel good.
The sermon preached by the angel to the shepherds “watching their flocks” on the night of Jesus’ birth was certainly a “feel good” sermon. Do you remember this line? “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Good news results in great joy.
Listen to Jesus himself:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, becasue he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
People who “go off” on “feel-good churches” are implying that these churches are not teaching the truth because the truth is hard to swallow – it doesn’t feel good going down.
Let’s be clear: there are times when truth hurts. As James Garfield said, “The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable.” For a bit more edgy version of this idea check out Gloria Steinem’s take: http://thinkexist.com/quotes/gloria_steinem/. Jesus said some tough stuff- mostly to religious people. In fact, here are the stats: Going off on “sinners” – 0. Going off on the “religious” – I can’t count that high.
“Pride, hypocrisy, insensitivity, judgmentalism, ” are a few of the things in the Pharisees that Jesus called out.
I have concluded that it is not my job to make people feel good OR bad about where they are in their spiritual journey. It is my job to show people Jesus and let Him, through the Holy Spirit, do what He does.
John said this about Jesus, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17). Sometimes we’ll feel bad at church because we realize we’re not like Jesus. But all the time we should feel good at church because we know that no matter what, Jesus loves us, He’s for us, and wants to express Himself through us.
That sounds good. That is good. That makes me feel good.