Thursday, May 21, 2015


A thing I've noticed recently: if you say to an evangelical Christian "we should really be ministering the word to one another", they will probably reply "yeah, we should challenge one another".  If you say to them "I loved the preaching of the word this morning", they will most likely answer "yeah, it was really challenging".  Which is interesting, because I take it that the word of God is the good news about Jesus, and I'm not sure being 'challenged' is usually good news.  It is not that the gospel never confronts and judges my behaviour and beliefs - far from it!  It is just that this doesn't seem to be the emphasis...

I don't particularly want to discourage Christians from 'challenging' one another, in sermons and in passing conversation.  We are to rebuke and exhort one another, for sure, and there isn't enough of it going on.  But at the end of the day, the challenge is just diagnosis, and a diagnosis is certainly not good news.  If you're going to diagnose me, at least offer me medicine as well.

To me this seems to go along with a version of sanctification which I think is a bit like picking at scabs.  (Yes, I am using a horrible image to disparage a position I disagree with.  But I've been up front about it, so that's okay.  Isn't it?)  What I mean is that there is a school of thought which locates pastoral care - whether the formal care of elders or the informal care of members for one another - in digging at sins, poking at them, going over them again and again...  Constantly bringing to light new idols, always challenging...  And sometimes I just want to say "if you keep picking at it, it'll never get better"...

Here is a question: how can we help one another to have joy?  By challenging one another?  Well, yes, sometimes - the wounds of a friend are faithful, and sometimes reservoirs of joy are just the other side of this wilderness into which a friend is leading us with their rebuke...  But maybe sometimes we should stop weeping over our sins - because the joy of the Lord is our strength..?


  1. Anonymous9:04 am

    YES! Excellent.

    Other similarly annoying, repeated, comments in this category:


    Really not what I want to hear after I have proclaimed the very word of God.

  2. Thanks Dan. I guess it's one of those odd clichés but thanks for reiterating that whilst we really ought to be exhorting one another - to change and repent - to stop at the diagnosis and not offer the medicine of the joy-giving gospel is criminal!

    However, I can't agree with the previous commenter - I *love* to be told that my proclamation of God's word is helpful and clear! Sure, there's lots more I'd hope for too, but God forbid that it'd be unhelpful or unclear!

  3. The scab image is a great one - I agree with you about the constant picking. In certain church circles there seems to be almost a morbid excitement in 'identifying sins and idolatry' to repent from. Of course, some of that is necessary, but as you say, when does the healing come? I liked your diagnosis plus medicine bit - if we don't have the medicine, then is it just shaming people?