Listen to any message by Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer and there will be plenty to make you feel good about yourself. Guidance on how you can live your best life now, how you can have a balanced life, how to build relationships and have a more healthy lifestyle. An ultra positive message designed to help you fulfil your potential and empower the inner you. If you are to look to any of the other proponents of the prosperity gospel you will find that the message will be the same; positive confession and the promise of financial and personal success. Yet although their words are dressed up in Christian terminology in truth they differ little from the message that is provided by a secular life coach or motivational speaker. Their message is simply a Christianised psychology. They talk of what God can do for you in your life, yet not what Christ has done to give you new life.
This sort of teaching has infiltrated the church to such a great extent that many people now have a greatly misplaced view of what they expect from their pastor and church. They do not desire an exhortation to holiness but rather to happiness. They have no interest in a message which challenges them to greater sanctification in their life but prefer one which fills them with confidence and belief in themselves. Doctrines such as repentance, sin and the blood are rarely mentioned but instead a man centred message is presented where God only exists to give us what we want. Essentially it is a Christianity without the cross where there is a desire only for encouragement, but not for edification.
Whilst there is always a great need for believers to be encouraged, there is equally a need for balance in the preaching. No dietician would recommended that a person simply consumes the foods which they like, but their diet must be balanced, based on what their body requires. Likewise our spiritual diet must also be balanced; we cannot pick and choose the verses and doctrines which we like, but we must feed ourselves on the whole Word of God. A pastor therefore has a duty to preach in such a manner that provides people with that balanced diet. True encouragement from scripture is vastly different from the personal growth and positive thinking teaching which emanates from many preachers today. Biblical teaching will indeed bring encouragement, not through filling us with good feelings about ourselves, but through giving us a stronger faith in the God of heaven and a greater understanding of him. Yet at times it will also bring rebuke, challenge and warning. Sadly this is missing from many pulpits.
What sort of teaching are you looking for? What sort of teaching are you receiving? If it is nothing more than a feel good message to get you through the day then you can probably find it somewhere other than your bible. The motivational speaker who helps you to improve your life using some vague bible terminology is vastly different from the pastor who seeks to faithfully preach and apply the Word of God to our lives. We do need to be encouraged from scripture (the prosperity gospel of Osteen et al has no basis whatsoever in the Word of God) but we also need to be rebuked of our sin, to be exhorted to holiness and to be brought daily to Calvary. What we truly need is not some form of Christian life coaching but faithful instruction in the great theological truths of the Word of God.