“Power Sucks” or “Sing the Magnificat Carefully”

Posted: December 17, 2013 in Rite and Rituals

So, I’m going to try my best not to join the chorus Phenom-Power-631of people lamenting Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers and Beth Moore and the like.  Well, at least not too much.

Needless to say I think they’re all full of it; I don’t think I need to point out to you why that is in any great detail.

But too many in the church are calling them “false prophets” and other such crazy names.  Frankly, I think that’s giving them too much credit.  We shouldn’t call them prophets at all because their message isn’t, in the least, prophetic.  They’re just people trying to make a buck, I think.

No really, I think that’s all they are.  They’re great showmen.  They’re good speakers (not great speakers, mind you).  And they’re good at organizing other people around them.  Natural leaders.

But they’re not prophets.

To be a prophet, to speak prophetically in the historical sense, was to speak truth with some boldness.  It was to speak in such a way that the very powers and systems of the world were shaken, afraid of your message.  This is why Paul speaks of teaching and preaching, “boldly.”  He does so in such a way that the very powers were afraid.

Hence why he ended up in jail so often.  Prophets usually ended up dead because of their message.

I’m pretty certain Olsteen, Meyers, Moore, Dollar, Jakes, and basically the personalities of channels 460-480 on my cable package will end up in jail.

For tax fraud.

Not for speaking too boldly against the powers of this world.

See, their message is one of power: God wants you to be powerful.

Powerful bank accounts.  Powerful influence.  Prestige.  Powerful enough to look at a house and “claim it” before you can afford it (aka “The Joel Osteen Story” coming to a Lifetime time-slot near you).

Powerful enough to actually believe that Living Proof Ministries would be an attractive name for a company that publishes “educational material” written by someone with no scholarly training in Biblical history or interpretation (that’s Beth Moore’s ministry outfit, in case you were wondering).

I need the living proof that she’s qualified to write material…

Here’s where the cognitive dissonance comes for this Christian: Jesus, in his life, in his birth, in his death, in his interactions, was not powerful by any worldly definition of power.

In fact, the song we’ll be singing in my faith community on Sunday, The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56), talks about how God throws down the mighty from their thrones, fills up the hungry but sends the rich away empty, scatters the proud, and causes all sorts of ruckus for those who play by the power rules of the world.

Look, Jesus was a homeless man, born to an unwed mother.  He had no job, lived off of the kindness of others, and died when he was a young man in the most horrible way possible.

By all accounts, Jesus was a failure.

And apparently Meyers’ and Olsteen’s and Jakes’ message to Jesus would be, “God’s got a blessing just waiting for you!  Just wait and see!  God doesn’t put up with people who are down on themselves, who don’t think they can. You are powerful in God!”

To which Jesus replies, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Power sucks.  It sucks the life out of us.  It sucks the message out of the church.  It just plain sucks.

Look, I’m not down on wealth or self-esteem.  God hasn’t made you to be a Debbie Downer (though God did make Rachel Dratch for that role).  Nor has God made you to be scraping by economically (though, I think there is such a thing as having too much).

I’m just down on wealth and self-esteem being pandered around as the central message of the church in this nation’s biggest churches.  And especially at this time of year, when laser-light Christmas pageants are being planned, and live camels are being rented, and all sorts of nonsense is costing people millions of dollars and hundreds of hours because they think God desires “bigger and better!”…

I have to imagine Jesus is in the back row, quietly lighting a candle, looking up at the stage and saying, “Father forgive them…for they know not what they do.”

Oh, and Father, forgive me, too.  This reluctant Christian is often just a little too proud in his thoughts.

So scatter my ego as well.

Then perhaps I, too, can sing The Magnificat with Mary this Advent.  Carefully.

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Comments
  1. You forgot Mark Driscoll. 🙂 Excellent post.

  2. A wonderful post. It made me think about how often I pull back when a stronger word is needed. Preaching and leading is hard work, especially when there is a hard word to be spoken in the faith community.

  3. pop says:

    Sometimes prophets occupy small pulpits in neighborhood churches in Chicago, and Des Moines, and maybe even Charlotte, NC. Rarely, if ever, do they stand on the big stage. Thanks.

  4. Jim says:

    Thanks for your post on these modern-day “prophets.” How dangerous their perversion of the gospel is and how sad that we are all subsidizing it through the tax breaks given to such “ministries.”

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