Andy Stanley has a way of asking questions that bring amazing clarity to complex issues. In his sermon series “Who Needs God,” he talks about a number of common misperceptions about God and the ‘descriptors’ that accompany them. But instead of trying to correct them, he took it a step further. He suggested we don’t need to change our minds about God, we need to forget these paradigms of God because they never existed in the first place!
Here is his list of false descriptors plus a couple of my own . . .
- bodyguard god – The perception that your god will protect you from all things harmful. If that’s the expectation you had of your god, then relax . . . that god never existed anyway.
- on-demand god – The perception that your god will answer all your requests. If what you’re asking for is fair and selfless, why would your god not do what you ask? If you’re disappointed in god because he doesn’t operate like a genie in the bottle, it’s ok to be disheartened, because ‘on-demand god’ doesn’t exist in the first place.
- boyfriend god – This god is so close; you feel him all the time. So when you don’t feel him, you assume he’s not there. All good . . . the god you feel all the time doesn’t exist.
- guilt god – Ever wonder why you constantly feel guilty? Can’t let go of things you did wrong or didn’t do perfectly? Maybe you believed in a god who’s constantly calling you out, demanding confession and perfection. Good news . . . that god doesn’t exist.
- anti-science god – Maybe you’re like me, you were taught that the Bible explained how everything was made and that science was always suspect if not outright heresy. So you wrote God off because science explains the how better than the Bible. Your confusion may have started when you heard people give faith-based answers to fact-based questions. What if the one true God was about why? What if science helps explain how He does stuff? Maybe the ‘anti-science’ god needs to go.
- gap god – All your life, you heard people explaining the gap between what we can understand and what we can’t with, “I guess it’s just a ‘god-thing.’” Unexplainable things were from the hand of god and that was that. When you got older, you wrote that god off because there were real explanations for some of these gaps. Well, Christ-followers have been and continue to be some of the leading scientists, researchers and explorers trying to understand and solve some of these gaps . . . so you can feel ok about not believing in that god because he doesn’t exist.
- cruise-control god – This god was behind creation . . . he set things up but ‘left the building’ after pushing the cruise control button. “Yes, Jesus died for my sins and I’m going to heaven (if there is one), but day-in and day-out, god is nowhere to be found.” True, because that’s a god that doesn’t exist.
- wimpy god – “Sure I believe in god . . . all this didn’t come into existence by itself, but he is powerless to help me and my circumstances.” Guess what? That god doesn’t never existed either.
- far away god – This god did all the stuff the Bible says, but he’s far, far away. Sometimes he shows ups and answers my prayers, but most of the time, he’s silent and unresponsive. He might be strong but he’s got ‘alligator arms’ when it comes to helping us here on earth.”
Stanley says people develop these descriptors of God when they are young and immature. For many, this was around the time they believed in Santa Claus. As their minds and bodies matured they learned the truth about Santa, but these false beliefs about God never changed. And when these descriptors didn’t ‘work’ for them as adults, they discarded God and walked away from meaningful faith.
If you read these posts, I kinda doubt you believe in any of these ‘gods,’ but you may know someone who’s hung up on a childhood image of a god that doesn’t exist. Maybe you can send this post and invite them to coffee to talk about it.
Scripture: Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
Mentor Tip: Influencing people outside the faith to find and follow Jesus is part of what I teach my mentees to do. Encourage your guys to look around at the folks God has placed in their lives and ask, “Which of these ‘gods’ is standing between my unchurched/unsaved friend and a relationship with Jesus?” Then encourage them to engage that person in an intentional relationship for spiritual purposes.