Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Real Deal

Written by: on March 20, 2014

What would your response be, if you walked into a car dealership and the salesperson, instead of telling you all the reasons why a particular make or model would benefit you, lacked knowledge, seemed indifferent or was continually tending to other tasks while under the pretense of listening to your needs? Chances are that you wouldn’t stay too long, let alone purchase a vehicle from him. You may even become disenchanted with the dealer and even the brand. Conversely you also wouldn’t be likely to purchase a vehicle from someone who was over-promising the quality of a large piece of metallic junk on wheels at a special price just for you. The real deal is hard to find.

Our expectation is that the salesperson will be extremely knowledgeable about their product, they will have first hand experience and will understand how a particular automobile will enhance your life. We don’t expect them to downplay the strengths or benefits of their product, we expect them to tell us the whole story.  We want the real deal.

In his book, Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics, Ross Douthat, walks the reader through the fragmentation of the Christian faith in our North American context (he actually is focused on the USA, but there’s enough in there that can effectively cross over the northern border).  Douthat provides this picture which captures well the current Christian condition, when he says, “..in a great many cases, one form of accommodation tended to lead inexorably to another (and another, and another), and after many waves of accommodationist enthusiasm the tide of faith went rushing out.”[1] (p,104)  From Oprah to Osteen to Obama, the author contends that we are continually facing differing messages rallying to be the feature item of our religious buffet.[2]  We are creating Jesus in our own image, to meet our desires. By being presented on the same media menu, they are placed on equal footing, further confusing the growing number of people who are ready to attach their faith identity to ‘made for distribution’ sound bites. Some will take a helping of one, equating them with the others, others will take the “daily special” with no consideration of it’s nutritional content.

So how do we respond?  Douthat offers this suggestion:

“To make any difference in our common life, Christianity must be lived –  not as a means to social cohesion or national renewal, but as an end unto itself. Anyone who seeks a more perfect union should begin by seeking the perfection of their own soul. Anyone who would save their country should first look to save themselves. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”[3]

It’s a statement that looks great in print and is easy to quote. If it were less than 140 characters it would be tweetable. That it appears at the end of the book, indicates that it’s application is much harder, which doesn’t diminish the fact that Douthat is challenging us to be the real Christ-like deal in our society.

Whether we like it or not, as ministers of the gospel, we are simply one menu item in the crowded accommodationist, pluralistic, prosperity-focused cafeteria of our culture. People walk briskly through, take what is readily available, fits their schedule and tolerance level, in order to minimize the detraction from the regularly lives.

At a recent pastors meeting, this question was posed to me: “How do you encourage the people of your congregation to get involved in the community?” It was followed by this statement: “If I’m honest, my own interactions with non-Christians is non-existent.”   It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been approached with this question, and now feel less likely to stammer and stumble over my disbelieving words. My question in return is this: “How can we encourage and/or challenge our church families with biblical truth if we aren’t aware of how it will engage the current culture?”

It would be like a car salesperson who had no idea how a particular automobile would perform in particular conditions. We would then, ourselves be presenting a fragmented version of the truth. God’s truth must lead us to love God…but sometimes that’s where my peers and I end in our communication. We must challenge ourselves to understand the practical implications for how this same eternal truth of God insects with peoples lives, through us, knowing that we are also called to “love our neighbours as ourselves.”  Therefore, for our part, we must also be “in the world” – intentionally, actively participating in the life of the communities to which we are called.  That participation should take place as individuals, with our families, and with our church families.

Despite the unquestioned fragmentation of the Truth about Jesus, now might be the best opportunity to start putting the pieces back together as we intentionally engage the world in which we live and redefine the ideas it has come to believe. “Indeed, like flying buttresses around a great cathedral, the pull and push of competing heresies may be precisely the thing that keeps the edifice of Christian faith upright.”[4] In that way, we will begin to workout Douthat’s desire to see our faith in Jesus Christ lived out in real time, and provide the possibility of more people being fulfilled by the invitation to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) He is the Real Deal.

  • What needs to change in our schedules that would allow us to spend more time in the community to which we are called?
  • To what degree are we tempted to give people what they want to hear rather than what needs to be said? How do we change that?
  •  As ministers of God’s truth, what are some of the challenges we face to effective communication of that truth?

[1] Douthat, Ross. Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics. (First Free Press: New York, NY), 104.

[2] Ibid., 181.

[3] Ibid., 293.

[4] Ibid., 13.

About the Author

Deve Persad

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