The truth is, today more than ever, our society is crying out for integrity and authenticity in relationships. Everybody wants to be loved sacrificially, in a way that is committed and real, but few can find that sacrificial love. That love is a core component of our gospel message and yet, in spite of this, as a Church we are failing to see widespread transformation. And so my question about the Church as a whole becomes uncomfortably a question about me. Why don't I see that transformative power in my life and the lives of so many around me?
Well, I've chewed on this question, and others like it, for quite some time. These questions sometimes seem too big to handle. But I've decided to start in the only way I know how: by taking a look at the symptoms. In the areas where we are struggling to have a transformative influence, I believe many of us will have seen the following symptoms:
1. Christians who have forgotten what it means to be disciples.
2. Christians who are inwardly focused.
3. Christians who have been seen as unattractive by society.
Now, if you came into a doctor's clinic with a sore throat, cough and a runny nose, you wouldn't be told that each of those complaints is an isolated disease in its own right. Each of those problems is a symptom of an underlying illness – a cold. In the same way, I would suggest that each of the problems listed above is a symptom of an underlying condition: our narrowed, too often (gulp) selfish understanding of the gospel.
Just as with any medical illness, it is only when we have a proper understanding of the symptoms that we gain a proper understanding of the underlying cause. And it is only when we gain this proper understanding of the underlying cause that we can seek to make it better. That's exactly what I am going to try to do in my new book. Taking each of the 'symptoms' in turn, I want us to look at how they affect our church's ability to transform and where they cause problems. Then, turning to the 'diagnosis', I want to take a deeper look at the Selfish Gospel that many of us, myself included, have too often come to understand.
Once we have unpacked and begun to understand the problems caused by the Selfish Gospel, we can explore how we can start to mend it. And, far from being hopeless, Jesus' gospel, embraced in its entirety, provides us with the 'cure'.
By addressing the Selfish Gospel head on, we will be able to reboot our transformative edge to full health. And, when we do, our lives, our churches and our wider communities will never be the same again.
The above extract is has been adapted from Freddie Pimm's book, 'The Selfish Gospel – Be transformed by giving it all' (IVP, June 15 2017). Order the book online or in store today.