“I Feel Good”


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.

6 thoughts on ““I Feel Good”

  1. I love this!! I’ve never understood the pastors who just preach “doom and gloom” – obviously life isn’t perfect, but Christ’s love is, so can’t we celebrate that?!? I feel so much more connected to God when I hear about His love for me, and how He’s forgiven me; this makes me joyful in Him, and it makes life more exciting. It also gives me the power to keep fighting with sin and the world. If I go to church and the pastor beats the pulpit with how hard life is and how we are horrible people, I feel defeated. I go to church to feel closer to my Savior, and I truly believe that God wants His children to be joyful.

  2. I want to feel good when I attend church. I feel good that Jesus loves sinners. I feel good that He had compassion–even from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”; I feel good when I see the human side of Jesus when He healed the leper. I feel good that He hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes and who knows who else–maybe, gays, alcoholics, thieves, drug addicts, homeless people and, gosh, He even used a murderer to reach the Gentiles. I feel good knowing he was totally human–I wonder how many times He had to slip off into the woods to take a leak when he walked from city to city.

    I’m sick and tired of hearing how unworthy I am from preachers who don’t feel good about themselves. There’s no doubt I’m unworthy, but I am definitely worth the price Jesus paid for me on Calvary. If I’m not, He wouldn’t have paid it for me, just like I wouldn’t spend $10,000 for a fake diamond.

    The Bible says I’m a new creature, perfect in God’s sight, a saint, a Son of God–why shouldn’t I feel good. I feel more than good when I read Rom. 8:38, 39–nothing can separate me from His love.

    I love what Robert McGee gave me in his book Search for Significance: My value is much greater than my performance because Jesus Christ died for me on Calvary thereby imparting great value to me. I am deeply loved, completely forgiven. totally accepted. fully pleasing and complete in Christ. If this isn’t something to feel good about, I don’t know what is.

    I love our spiritual church. I’ve had my fill of religious churches and people. Philip, if you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve been getting–people growing in grace, becoming spiritually mature, showing their faith by their works, supporting each other, discovering their potential, knowing their true worth and lifting you up in prayer.

    God bless you.

  3. Amen to that! When I hear the “Good News” that Jesus loves me and that all is not lost, I sure do feel good. Thanks

  4. I was raised “church of God holyness” (holy roller) . The only joy that was allowed was dancing in church . Any joy that was experienced out side of church was called “excess of riot” . No jokes , no laughing , only small wisps of smiling and certainly no bright clothing or hanging around people who did things like going to an amusment park . I remember my dad getting in trouble because he laughed out loud when not in church . The standard line was ” if you got time to play , you got time to pray”, OH and don’t forget to cry while praying ……………. I traded all that for a “feel good” relationship with God and a lite burden. “woe unto you scribes and paharsees , hypocrits , you lay great burdens , grieves to be born” …….and ………. yup, I am an educated man who still can’t spell worth a hoot .

  5. Feel-Good Sermons

    There is a phenomenon, actually not uncommon, that we might call the feel-good sermon. In it the preacher begins with the text and then shares several points that are somehow linked to the text. The points will be put in terms that are comfortable and reassuring to the listener. The listeners may well walk away feeling vaguely blessed and certainly positive in their view of the speaker.

    However, this kind of sermon typically does not engage fully with the text. Often issues like sin or judgment will be skirted around or offered merely in non-specific euphemisms. Thus the tension in the text is not really engaged, nor resolved. This probably means that the same tensions in the lives of the listeners are neither engaged, nor resolved.

    Let’s beware of preaching feel-good sermons rather than biblical sermons. It is possible to preach the Bible in a very engaging, encouraging and even positive way. It is possible to preach the passage properly, even in a “seeker-friendly” setting. In fact, if our main concern was the listener, wouldn’t we feel obliged to really engage fully with both text and listener? The feel-good sermon seems to be a short-cut to happy handshakes, but it falls short of engaging both the text and the listener. So perhaps the motivation is more fear and the preacher’s personal comfort than it is the motivation of a true minister?

  6. I feel good too!! So good that I find myself face down in the floor thanking GOD for what he did for me and having great sorrow for being the sinner I am in the flesh.

    What scares me most here is that maybe we want so much to feel good that we don’t feel bad about the sins we still commit. I believe with all my heart that I am forgiven for all of my sins even the ones that I will commit in the future. I am thankful that He still points out to me where I fail because it always points me back to the cross and His love for me.

    Somebody wrote above the Christ hung out with sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, gays, thieves, murderers, and so on. Do you think Jesus told them to continue on in these lifestyles because the law of sin would be done away with?

    If someone here would just tell me that the things I mentioned above are still sin I would be able to have some peace with the things being said here.

    We must confess that we are sinners (if we don’t we say God is a liar) in order to be forgiven of our sins.

    I truly ask these things in love and am not trying to make anyone feel bad. After all. I’m a feel good guy too ! In CHRIST : )

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