Archive - September, 2017

RECOMMENDED! Scripture and the Life of God ©

Periodically, I am asked read a book pre-publication and write a brief promotional blurb for the book. I have had the pleasure of doing this for a number of books including (but not limited to) Leadership Directions from Moses by Olu Brown, A Missionary Mindset by Doug Ruffle, and Go: The Church’s Main Purpose by George Hunter. Recently I had the further distinct privilege of endorsing two new books:  Scripture and the Life of God by Dr. David Watson, Dean at United Theological Seminary and The Band Meeting: An Invitation to Intentional Relational Transformation by Professors Scott Kisker (United Theology Seminary) and Kevin Watson (Candler School of Theology). Both books are outstanding and well worth reading!

By way of endorsement for Dr. Watson’s book I wrote: “Scripture and the Life of God goes way beyond being one more informational book on reading Scripture. This book is transformational! Whether a pastor, a long-time discipled Christian, or a novice to the faith, all will be offered a fresh and exciting adventure into the transformational presence and power of God through Holy Scripture. I cannot recommend it highly enough!”

Dean Watson is a New Testament scholar who writes for the church as a whole. Pastors and Sunday School classes alike will benefit from reading Scripture and the Life of God. The book is written with Study Questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate group discussion. The author does not duck issues of biblical inspiration. Rather he insightfully takes us beyond commonplace considerations to a deeper level of meaning. Consider the following: “Yet in adopting one theory or another, we should remember that the meaningfulness of Scripture does not depend on a particular understanding of inspiration. It depends upon God. God is alive, and God reaches out to us in and through the words of the Bible. Therefore, we search the Scriptures. We pray over them. We listen to them in worship. We sing their words. Ultimately, we are formed by God’s work through them into the people we are meant to be. We have become participants in the divine nature” (Scripture and the Life of God by David F. Watson, pg. 15).

Allow me to offer a couple of other excerpts to whet the reader’s appetite:

“In this book, I want to argue a singular point: the Bible is a form of divine communication meant to lead us more fully into the life of God. Put in theological terms, we might say that through the Bible we receive divine revelation, the purpose of which is soteriological. In other words, the purpose of God’s Word is salvation for the world. John Wesley believed that Scripture shows us ‘the way to heaven –  how to land safe on that happy shore. …Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his Book; for this end, to find the way to heaven.’ Or to put in in yet another way, God speaks to us through the Bible and leads us into salvation. God loves us and wishes us to return that love. When we do, we enter more fully into the divine life. The Bible is a ‘book of meeting.’ It draws us ever more deeply into a relationship with the God who came to us in Jesus Christ. In light of this, our first posture toward the Bible should be one of gratitude, not criticism”(Scripture and the Life of God by David F. Watson, pg. xviii).

“Reading in community is an act of humility. None of us has all the answers. None of us is a perfect interpreter of the Bible. A particularly unique understanding of a passage of Scripture is not likely a very good one. We are fellow travelers on the pathway into the life of God. The biblical scholar James Sanders wrote that we should consider ourselves to be pilgrims: ‘The model of the believing community … is that of a pilgrim folk en route through the ambiguities of present reality to the threshold of truth.’ In this life, we simply will not reach our final destination. We won’t know it all. We will never apprehend the whole truth about God. We will not fully understand all that God has done for us. For our entire Christian lives, we are moving more deeply into the life of God” (Scripture and the Life of God by David F. Watson, pg. 50).

Dr. Watson closes by reminding the reader of a well known story of St. Augustine, which speaks into my life, our lives together, the life of the church and, I believe, has a word desperately needed for our times. “We started this book with a story about Augustine, the great theologian of the fourth and fifth centuries whose spiritual autobiography, the Confessions, is among the classic works of Christian literature. He would come to be called ‘Saint Augustine,’ an iconic figure after whom churches, schools, and cities would be named. Before he was any of these things, though, he was simply a man who came to understand that he needed to know God more deeply than he did. When he heard the voice of a child calling, ‘Pick up and read,’ he took it as a sign that God was leading him into the next step of his journey with Christ. He was obedient. He picked up his copy of Paul’s letter, he read, and he was transformed. Scripture was the vehicle that God used to lead Augustine across a crucial threshold in his life of faith” (Scripture and the Life of God by David F. Watson, pg. 113).

It is my hope that Pastors and Sunday School classes across the Central Texas Conference will use this book, Scripture and the Life of God, to help us better understand and more fully delve into the book which matters most – the Bible. John Wesley, the founder of the Wesleyan revival and the Methodist Church, speaking of the Bible wrote: “I want to know one thing – the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!” Scripture and the Life of God does just that! It helps us embrace the Holy Scriptures on a more meaningful level.

HURRICANE RESPONSE: Great Faithfulness in the Face of Disaster ©

The Apostle Paul famously called for a special offering for the Jerusalem Church and Christians suffering in hard times during a famine in the 40s A.D. Those words of almost two thousand years ago are easily echoed today in response to the great faithfulness of the churches of the Central Texas Conference in offerings for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God. They will give honor to God for your obedience to your confession of Christ’s gospel. They will do this because this service provides evidence of your obedience, and because of your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone” (2 Corinthians 9:11b-13).

From the depths of my heart I want to express a gratitude to the members and churches of the Central Texas Conference.  A preliminary report from our Conference Treasurer is that some 120 churches (some with repeated donations) have responded today with a total amount of money currently at $244,665.04.  In addition, a number of churches and individuals have given directly and are not being included in this amount.  We are still receiving money for Hurricane Relief and UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) on a regular basis so the final amount should be a good bit higher. To all, God bless you for your great faithfulness in the face of disaster. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we reached the 100% of Central Texas Conference churches responding!

Disaster Response Coordinator for the Central Texas Conference, Rev. Ginger Watson, shared a report last Sunday afternoon (September 24th) at the regular meeting of the CTC Connectional Table. Some notes from that report are:

  • We have small depots for supplies at First Hillsboro, Tenth Street Taylor, Lifepoint and Comanche UMCs.
  • A Genesis UMC member with a trailer loaded with over 100 flood buckets, 500 hygiene kits and diapers to take those desperately need items to Conroe.  When he arrived, the warehouse was completely empty.  His load of supplies was an answered prayer.
  • Leah and Stan Gregory with others delivered similar loads of supplies to those in South Texas (the Rio Texas Conference) at Kerrville.  Many other similar loads have headed into recovery areas. Rev. Watson estimates that we have provided well over 1,000 flood buckets along with several thousand hygiene kits. 300 more flood buckets head south this week!
  • Trained ERT (Early Response Teams) have come from a dozen churches across the conference. Over 150 additional CTC members have received critical and necessary training as ERTs.
  • Genesis, Polytechnic UMC and a number of other churches have provided greatly needed bedding on an emergency basis.  Volunteers from First Hurst and White’s Chapel have also provided Ministry Safe childcare volunteers to work with evacuee children.

The list goes on and on! For all of it and more yet to come, I thank you. Your faithfulness is a blessing to many. Ginger Watson (our Disaster Relief Coordinator) reports that “our primary focus is on the Rio Texas Conference (which includes the areas of Rockport and Aransas Pass) because of their extreme need and lack of support.”  She adds, “We have now shifted our emphasis on flood buckets and hygiene kits to mold remediation products. Our plan is to take completed buckets and kits to the Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana so that they can be deployed to Harvey or Irma relief, as needed.”

God bless and keep you for your great faithfulness in response to disaster brought on by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma!

WORSHIP AND THE WIG ©

John Wesley is purported to have said that “worship is the first and primary duty of the Christian.”  This crucial act of biblical discipleship is clear. In his decisive interchange with the woman at the well, Jesus says, “But the time is coming – and is here! – when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24). The great 100th Psalm is explicit: “Shout triumphantly to the LORD, all the earth!  Serve the LORD with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 100:1-2). The writer of Hebrews admonishes us, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).

In a recent sermon, I shared a classic definition of worship from Archbishop William Temple. As bombs dropped over London and night after night the Nazi bombers released their load of destruction, William Temple, then Archbishop of Canterbury, preaching from the mighty St. Paul’s Cathedral, gave his famous definition of worship. “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. All this is gathered up in that emotion which most cleanses us from selfishness because it is the most selfless of all emotions – adoration.”  The context is of great significance. In the midst of a great world war, worship was seen as central to the life of faith.

As we have moved through the Exodus Project (for 7 years now), we have asked ourselves “what is the one thing that would make the greatest difference in the life of faithful discipleship and in the life of our churches?”  The answer is simple and basic; the one foundational activity that makes a huge difference across the board is an increase in average worship attendance.

Consider the truth:

  • An increase in average worship attendance means more people engaged in outreach mission of justice and mercy for the hungry, hurting and homeless.
  • An increase in average worship attendance has a direct correlation to an increase in giving thus enabling both basic discipleship development and greater outreach for others.
  • An increase in average worship attendance usually means a church is reaching more people, younger people, and more diverse people with the gospel.
  • An increase in average worship attendance develops a greater commitment to the whole gospel.

The great centrality of holy worship in the life of discipleship has led us to the WIG. WIG means the Wildly Important Goal. At our last Annual Conference, we introduced the WIG as a percent of market share. United Methodists have roughly 1% of the populace in the geographical area composing the Central Texas Conference worshipping in our churches. The goal we adopted as a Conference was to increase our market share in worship attendance as a percent of the population to 1.25 percent by 2026. This is a huge increase, especially considering that we expect the population of our Conference area to grow 15% by 2026. Recently Lovett Weems (founding Director for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Center and now Senior Consultant) shared with me that this is one of the most audacious and significant goals he has seen any Conference in the United States set in many years.

Figuring out the market share goal of any one local church is not a matter of simply calculating 1.25% of the population within a 5-mile drive radius. Figuring out market share (a way of thinking about worship mission share) involves first, knowing your market (mission) area. Is it 5 miles or a 15-minute drive or a geographical county or a few zip codes?  The local church (not the District or Conference) will establish its own best understanding of their mission field and market area.

Secondly figuring out market share necessitates knowing what your current market share is as a congregation. Again, the local church (not the District or Conference) will establish its own best understanding of their mission field and market area. Using Mission Insite (a detailed demographic analysis which may be accessed free of charge), a church can then calculate its current market share. The market share will differ wildly from church to church. For some churches the current market share of average worship attendance will be above the Conference average. (I looked at two recently that were at 3% and one at 6%.)  Others will be below 1%. (I looked at one that at .5% and another at less than .5 %). Typically market share will be higher in small towns and lower in cities.

Local church leadership together with the pastor (not by the pastor alone!!) will establish a measurable goal for the next year. Those goals should include an increase in worship attendance (whether market share or a simple numeric goal) as well as an increase in Professions of Faith. Together we are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

 

How to set goals – by Jaime McGlothlin from Valley Mills / Cayote

 

 

 

The Hunger Among Us ©

Recently a friend pointed me back to an article written a number of years ago about The Beatles and spiritual hunger.  In their meteoric rise from obscurity to fame, The Beatles quickly discovered that fame and fortune were not everything it was cracked up to be. “At a later time in Lennon’s life he addictively found himself watching popu­lar television preachers in search of answers. It was reported that Lennon sent a fascinating letter to the Rev. Oral Roberts in 1972, regretting having said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus and confessing that he took drugs because he feared reality. Additionally, he quoted the fa­mous lyrics ‘money can’t buy me love’ and sent a donation.”
“It’s true. The point is this, I want happiness,” read the letter to Roberts. “I don’t want to keep on with drugs…. Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phony? Can He love me? I want out of hell.”

In the midst of a thoughtful and lengthy response, Roberts wrote, “What I want to say … is that Jesus, the true reality, is not hard to face. He said, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'”

Despite the letters exchanged between the rock star and the TV preacher, Len­non’s restless journey eventually led him to embrace philosophies and beliefs that were all over the map.

“You could rattle human authority by growing your hair long, but you couldn’t conquer your inner demons in the same way,” observed [author Steve] Turner [in his book, The Gospel According to the Beatles]. “To ‘change your head,’ as John referred to it in [the song] ‘Revolution,’ required something much more radical” (Steve Beard, “Summer of Love,” Good News, May/June 2017, p. 9).

I am convinced and convicted that we live in a time and culture seeking something greater, something more, than what we have.  Society-wide, we have a desperate search for meaning and truth which often exists just below the thin soil of American hedonism.  Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma force people to confront this truth.  They challenge us by making us face what matters most.

There is a deep spiritual hunger among us.  We all need wisdom and guidance.  Faithful and fruitful churches understand this truth. It is a cry we hear behind the words spoken by someone who says “I don’t go to church, but I’m very spiritual.” It ricochets around this county. It reverberates in conversations held across social networks. It is part of the background noise of our searching society.

Great churches live out of this focused center. They understand that people are not seeking an institution but a relationship with God in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The focused center we are called to live out of is the same one that captivated the struggling conflicted early Christian church. Thus, the Apostle Paul wrote the small struggling house church in metropolitan Corinth his second letter of instructions. “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own” (II Corinthians 5:14-15, The Message).

Bishop Will Willimon writes: “There may be religions that begin with long walks in the woods, communing with nature, getting close to trees. There may be religions that begin by delving into the recesses of a person’s ego, rummaging around in the psyche. Christianity is not one of them” (William Willimon, Peculiar Speech, p. 19). It is about an encounter with Jesus, the God/Man. It is the divine answer to the hunger within, around and among us. This focused center brings us to faith – faith as trusting obedience that encounters Christ in our everyday lives through our following Him. It is no more nor less than the way of the cross. This is the true path of salvation. Jesus says, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor” (John 12:26).

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #11 ©

Reclaiming a Doctrine of Salvation

 Last week Dr. Lisa Neslony, West District Superintendent in the Central Texas Conference, wrote in a perceptive email, “What if Christians sought the spiritually lost the way volunteers have been seeking people in Southeast Texas? And why don’t we? Maybe we don’t really believe people are threatened by a spiritual death that is as real as water rising all around you. It struck me Tuesday when I listened to the radio on my way west that some people had refused being ‘saved’ (the broadcaster’s word) on Monday but were begging to be saved Tuesday. I have to admit that sometimes I give up on people. But I am overwhelmed with the conviction that I should offer the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all I meet as many times as it takes so people can experience God’s salvation.”

In Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesley Way #10, I wrote on the concept of grace and noted carefully that an understanding of grace is ultimately tied to a doctrine of salvation. Thus at the heart of the Wesleyan Way is a rock solid conviction that the offer of salvation is for all! Ironically, the mainline Christian core has migrated from a battle over salvation for the elect only vs salvation as available to all (through not all are saved!), to a loose conviction that in some vague way everyone is saved. Often this theological fuzziness is confused even further by an understanding of salvation that is truncated into the simplistic (and false notion) of just getting into heaven.

In his great sermon “The Scriptural Way of Salvation” preaching on the text of Ephesians 2:8 (“Ye are saved through faith”), John Wesley famously noted: “The salvation which is here spoken of is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. . . . It is not something at a distance: it is a present thing, a blessing which, through the free mercy of God, ye are now in possession of. . . . So that the salvation which is here spoken of might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul till it is consummated in glory” (John Wesley, “The Scriptural Way to Salvation,” The Works of John Wesley, Volume 2, Sermons II, 34-70, Edited by Albert C. Outler, p. 156). So too, in Sermon I of Wesley’s collection of sermons (which formed a theological backbone of Methodism) Wesley connected salvation with grace and faith (again preaching on Ephesians 2:8) in a way that great clarity. “Grace is the source, faith the condition, of salvation” (John Wesley, “Salvation by Faith,” The Works of John Wesley, Volume 1, Sermons I, 1-33, Edited by Albert C. Outler, p. 118).

In his marvelous book Who Will Be Saved? (which I heartily recommend!) Bishop William Willimon draws the connection tight. “Although celebration of humanity is the dominant, governmentally sanctioned story, it is not the story to which Christians are accountable. It is the conventional North American story that, at every turn, is counter to the gospel. Thus we begin by noting that there are few more challenging words to be said by the church than salvation. Salvation implies that there is something from which we need to be saved, that we are not doing as well as we presume, that we do not have the whole world in our hands and that the hope for us is not of our devising. . . . To be sure, Scripture is concerned with our eternal fate. What has been obscured is Scripture’s stress on salvation as invitation to share in a particular God’s life here, now, so that we might do so forever. Salvation isn’t just a destination; it is our vocation. Salvation isn’t just a question of who is saved and who is damned, who will get to heaven and how, but also how we are swept up into participation in the mystery of God who is Jesus Christ” (Bishop William Willimon, Who Will Be Saved?, p. 3).

Consider further that if the source of salvation is grace, God’s radically free unmerited love poured out for us on the cross of Christ, then a critical element of love is that it cannot be forced. Forced grace is a contradiction in terms. If it is forced, it isn’t grace! We either lean forward and say to God, “thy will be done,” or lean back and hear the Lord whisper in our ears, “all right then, have it your way.” (This phrase is not original to me but I do not recall the original source.) Hell is both real and of our own choice and making. It hinges on the critical decision of whether Jesus is truly the Lord of our life. It is about much more than simply saying the magic words of profession or passing off allegiance to Christ as mere intellectual assent. To be sure grace abounds, but is never cheap nor is it easy.

We have waded too long in the shallow pool of indulgent self-preference. The one who hangs on the cross for us and rises from death in triumph will not be content with a rotting sentimentality spread so thinly over 21st century hedonism. Hung over self-indulgent sentimentality cannot stand the gas ovens of the Nazis or the pain of cancer or the clash of our self-will at the expense of God’s created design and desire. Truth was not crucified on the cross. The Way, the Truth, and Life rose triumphant on Easter morning.

Any true notion of Christian salvation is tied inextricably to Jesus Christ. Again Bishop Willimon is on target. “Salvation is literally inconceivable apart from Christ: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Peter wasn’t speaking to the question of other faiths  – he was testifying before his follow Jews about the Jew, Jesus. . . . If Jesus is, as we believe him to be, as much of God as we ever hope to see, the one who uniquely brought about our at-one-ment with the Father, then we can’t also say that Jesus is only a way, one truth among many, and just another life. Jesus is not simply a great moral example; he is the salvation of God, God’s peculiar, un-substitutable fullness. Jesus’ distinctive way of suffering, sacrificial love, outrageous invitation, and boundary-breaking, government-enraging, relentless seeking – vindicated by surprising, unexpected resurrection – cannot be merged with other means of definitions of salvation” (Bishop William Willimon, Who Will Be Saved?, pp. 93-94).

If we are to reclaim the heart of the Wesleyan Way, we cannot neglect the full development and employment of a biblical doctrine of salvation. Much of the muddled thinking about salvation comes from a confusion of the importance of good works as a part of salvation with a vague understanding of cheap grace. For far too long cheap grace has been stirred with the good works of love, justice and mercy in a manner which as produced the bland gruel of shallow “niceness.”  It is time to reclaim (and preach!) a full doctrine of salvation by Christ alone. And all this done in a manner soaked in humble grace at the foot of the cross and next to the open grave.

Professors Scott Kisker and Kevin Watson in their soon to be published book The Band Meeting: An Invitation to Intentional Relational Transformation take time to remind us of this cardinal conviction of early Methodism. “British Methodists summarized the distinctive Wesleyan aspects of salvation with the ‘four alls:’

“All need to be saved.
“All can be saved.
“All can know they are saved.
“All can be saved to the uttermost.”

(Taken from The Band Meeting: An Invitation to Intentional Relational Transformation by Scott T. Kisker and Kevin M. Watson, pg. 66 pre-publication copy. Footnote: This summary was developed in the early twentieth century by W. B. Fitzgerald. See W.B. Fitzgerald, The Roots of Methodism (London: The Epworth Press, 1903), 173)

 

Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #10 (C)

Amazing Grace!

Few Christian doctrines have overtaken The United Methodist Church as the doctrine of grace.  One could almost argue that the song “Amazing Grace” has become the unofficial anthem of the church. The words ring out:

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
(“Amazing Grace,” Hymn No. 378, verses 1 & 2, The United Methodist Hymnal)

For John Wesley, an understanding of grace was and is always tied to a doctrine of salvation and more explicitly to an understanding of justification. Two of Wesley’s favorite texts for preaching were: 1 Corinthians 1:30 – “It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us.” And, Ephesians 2:8-10 – “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed.  It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.  Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.” Thus Wesley writes in his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament on Ephesians 2:8, “Grace, without any respect to human worthiness, confers this glorious gift. Faith, with an empty hand, and without any pretense to personal desert, receives the heavenly blessing.” Wesley’s footnote on 1 Corinthians 1:30 reads, “out of His grace and mercy.”

A simple definition of grace might be the radically free and wholly unmerited gift of God’s love and forgiveness. Father Roger Haight, S.J. has written one of the best books I have ever read on the subject (I read it for my doctoral work back in 1983) entitled The Experience and Language of Grace. Tracing the connect of the word from the Latin gratia back to the Greek charis, which is the word the New Testament uses, he writes that the word charis of several Hebrew words which convey “meanings reducible to three main ideas: condescending love, conciliatory compassion and fidelity. As a result,” says Father Haight, “the word grace has the special connotation of everything that pertains to a gift of love; it is totally gratuitous or unmerited and underserved” (Roger Haight, S.J., The Experience and Language of Grace, p. 6).

I love the old acrostic for Grace.
God’s
Riches
At
Christ’s
Expense

The claiming or reclaiming of the Wesleyan Way will always have an understanding of grace tied to a doctrine of salvation at its center. Most of us find it easy and comforting to apply grace to ourselves, our loved ones, and our church. Where we choke is on applying a doctrine of grace to someone we consider obviously underserving. But then that is the Christian dilemma. The claim of the faith, rising out of a proper understanding of the infection we call sin, is that all of us are underserving.

The second place we choke on a doctrine of grace lies in our modern rendering of grace as something cheap or easily given. Grace is, to be sure, radically free but it is never cheap or easy. Our own experience should tell us this much.

The words of the famous Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer offer both a caution and frame for our usage of the great doctrine of grace.

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. . . .

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. … In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 45-46)