By Helen Packard
Benjamin’s YouTube views were at an all time high. His Instagram account had more followers than ever. His social media presence was the envy of even secular influencers, and to top it all off, he had been invited to speak at a conference regarding how to engage the next generation in the Great Commission. It had all started when Benjamin had decided to use the strategies he was learning at business school to promote his church’s youth group. By tweaking captions, finding the right photos, and honing in on just the right audience, he had managed to advertise the youth group to a raging success, and the church had had to rent a larger facility to accommodate the hundreds of youth who were showing up Friday nights for activities and a short message. As youth pastors around the city and even the country wanted to know his secrets of success, he had begun advising church leaders in social media use, and he was in demand everywhere.
As Benjamin prepared his presentation for the conference, he filled his PowerPoint with flow charts and graphs, statistics, and suggestions for key words that would unlock the potential of internet advertising. What was he speaking on again? Oh yeah, the Great Commission. But did it really matter? The same principles and formulas would work whether Benjamin was speaking at a conference on the Great Commission or the Great Wall of China. As he perused the line-up of speakers set to present at the conference alongside him, he smirked at the length of time dedicated to “hearing from the Lord” – the conference organizers were really going to waste a whole day on giving the attendees time to “hear from the Lord?” What these organizers needed to accept was that the formulas and principles he had developed were what they really needed to get the next generation involved in missions.
In the first post of this series, I shared a story of someone who was living with what Skye Jethani would call a “life under God” perspective – Amy’s story. This was one of four incomplete views of relating to God I highlighted as I taught on Biblical Worldview a few weeks ago. Today’s story shares a fictional outlook on what it might look like to live out of a “life over God” perspective.
As Jethani outlines in his book With, the “life over God” perspective reduces God down to formulas and principles that supposedly guarantee success in life, but this perspective takes God out of the picture. It postures that if you identify the right godly living principles, business strategies, and “life hacks,” God Himself is not necessary. Godly principles replace relationship with God altogether.
It is all too easy to fall into this trap. Of course, there are godly principles out there – ways God wants us to live – He is a God of structure and order – He brought order out of chaos, right from the beginning (see Genesis 1). But God’s heart for us is to have relationship with us. And we can’t have a relationship with principles and formulas.