Have you been to the “self-help” section of the bookstore lately?
Of all the kinds of things that people can publish, self-help is booming. There is a dizzying array of books, DVDs and other resources to help people with every conceivable problem.
If you go to the self-help section of the store, I think one thing becomes clear:
People are not happy.
Take any random person, and there is probably some aspect of themselves that they are not happy with. They don’t like the way they look, or they don’t know how to manage money, or they aren’t good at relationships. Something in their life bugs them. So virtually every person is the market for self-help gurus.
This is another place where our Christian culture is behind instead of ahead of the curve.
I can get basically the same self-help advice from a lot of pastors that I can from anyone else, just with a shiny coat of Jesus polish on it. A lot of churches are interested in how to help people live better, look better, relate better, believe better. That’s all well and good.
But faith doesn’t start with self-help. Faith begins where self-help ends, where all of our self-helping stops being effective.
This is one of my favorite little sayings, attributed to N.T. Wright. It pretty well sums up what we are supposed to start with.
“The Gospel is not good advice; it is good news.”
If we are starting with advice and not news, then we are not being churches.
If we start with advice rather than news, we aren’t really Christians.
If we start with advice rather than news, then no one needs to listen to us because they can get all the advice they need without the guilt.