Just this morning I got an email from someone who had heard a tv preacher slam what he called “joy churches and preachers” as being unholy in the eyes of God. Now, I’m pretty sure this preacher has never heard a single message from this preacher at Heartsong, but I’m sure we would be among those he is slamming. In fact, I have reason to believe we (and me) are exactly the church that got him riled up.
The person who sent the email was confused. He is a regular attender at Heartsong and love what we are up to for Christ’s sake. He was confused by the attack, and wondered what kind of response I would make to it. Here is exactly what I replied to him:
Dear (I didn’t ask him if I could use his name, so I won’t),
That is so sad. It seems like someone would be spending that precious time trying to woo people into spending life with Jesus instead of slamming others who are trying to do that. The truth is that there are two major divisions in understanding Jesus and how to follow him. One camp says that if you took the worst person you ever knew and peeled away all the bad there would be goodness at the core of their being because God made them. The other camp says that if you took the best person you ever knew and peeled away all the good at their core they would be badness because human beings by nature are bad. The second way believes that the only way to help someone to God is to scare them there, and to offer all kinds of rules and regulations to control them.
Honestly, I was raised in such a church and it only served to push me away from God and cause me to believe I was hopelessly lost. The first way believes that the way to help people find their way home to Jesus and his family is to encourage them and love them there. Obviously, we are a people of the first way. And Pastor Gaines and those who follow his teaching are of the second way. When you listened to him did you feel joyfully drawn to Jesus and his ways or fearful and discouraged? We too teach the whole gospel, including the warnings about blowing our lives and wasting our time here. It’s just that we do it in such a way that it still ends up loving and encouraging and appealing to the goodness God built into us at the very core of our being. We do that to the end of the scripture that says, “perfect (i.e. complete) love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
I can only share with you my experience, strength and hope. I am convinced that the second way of following Jesus is far easier and requires that we fool ourselves. It’s easier because it relies on rules and regulations someone else proscribes for us, and we have to fool ourselves into believing the rules and regulations they teach are the correct ones (and all of the rule keepers have different rules according to denomination and interpretation). Our way is more difficult because what we rely on is not what anyone else tells us, but our own one in a zillion personal relationship we build with Jesus himself through learning him through the bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and then spending our lives with him though the Holy Spirit (the same personality and will Jesus taught and lived) guiding us through those teachings into how to live the life of love every day in every way with every one. It’s harder than following some laid out plan, but far far more rewarding. I could not and did not want to follow Jesus the other way. No one could possibly ever stop me from following him this way. The second way led me to failure, discouragement and distance from God. The first way has absolutely made my life and continues to every day.
It saddens me that so many are being influenced to follow Jesus by fleeing fear for the security of a certain list of rules and regulations, when they could be influenced to respond to his great love and have the one in a zillion adventure of their lifetimes. The second way, in my opinion, leads to a fine religion. The first leads to the very reason we were sent to this earth in the first place-to know God (which Jesus said is eternal life- John 17:3).
I hope this helps you. It really is a choice as to how to follow Jesus. Pastor Gaines will go to the grave believing he has chosen the right way to do it. So will I. And only you can make your choice for you.
If I can be of help to you as you wrestle with this, please holler back. I would be glad to spend time in person with you to more deeply share why I have chosen the path I am on. Thanks so much for being willing to trust me with your struggle for the truth. My prayer is that what is in my heart and mind and soul has been of help to yours. I am,
Yours for Christ’s sake
Heartsong faithful, I hope that helps you have a clear picture of who we are as a people and helps you give an account of that to any who need Jesus, but live in a culture soaked in the fear of him.