The Beautiful Death of American Gospels

I remember Juan.

He was a retired Puerto Rican doctor in his seventies who spent his retirement pouring out his life for the people in the slums of Caguas. His mission house fed the poor a warm lunch everyday and provided free healthcare to the community. He worked like a young man in his prime when he wielded a machete to clear the land for a new mission down the road. He greeted virtual strangers with a smile, a hug, and maybe even a kiss on the cheek.

When asked how much money he needed for repairs on the mission house, Juan beseeched our group,

“You Americans always send money and think that is the cure. We don’t need money, we need missionaries!”

I remember Peter.

He was a middle aged Romanian man who served the youth in one of the few Protestant churches in Timişoara. We stood on a Romanian hillside overlooking the retreat building our group was staying at for the week. Peter beamed with pride as he testified about the building: twenty years ago this was a Communist schoolhouse built to indoctrinate children in name of Marxism. Now it is a Christian camp center dedicated to love children in the name of Jesus Christ.

At the end of our last service at the camp, our American group decided to wash the feet of the Romanian children and adult workers (John 13). One woman, a kitchen helper and parent of a youth, wept uncontrollably as she had her feet washed. When asked what she was so moved by, she said:

“You being Americans, wash our feet!”

I was touched.

And part of me grieved.

Why would Americans be on an undeserving pedestal in this woman’s mind?imagesCAXMI4QO

I wondered what influence the “American” gospel had on her. Even third world countries are reached by the satellite tentacles of TBN, Daystar, 700 Club, etc. How is a malnourished Indian kid who eats dirt brownies supposed to process a purple haired lady sitting on a golden throne asking for money?

How is a poor Haitian boy who witnessed his parents die after a sudden earthquake supposed to process a rich old white man who says God judged his nation because of its religious history?

Was it even the prosperity gospel the Romanian lady heard?

Or was it the gospel of American pride/nationalism even some of my Baptist brethren preached?

Our American heritage said we were a city set on hill, their heritage said they were a Slumdog languishing in the valley.

What she needed to hear was this: She was a precious child of God, a beloved bride, a chosen saint in a Kingdom without end. Everyone in that room was on equal footing; we were all crippled by our sin until God stooped down to us in Christ and lifted us up.

We weren’t Romanian brethren and American brethren. We were brothers and sisters, period. Blood bought adopted kids with the same Father. We were joined with an unbreakable bond that transcended culture or language.

Though our pasts are diversified, our future will be unified in one glorious end. This will be the utter death of all our pet gospels:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9)


Bryan Daniels

Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

15 thoughts on “The Beautiful Death of American Gospels”

  1. I never want to be put on a pedestal. The fall off it would kill me . . . and I would surely fall. Beautiful post. We are all the same. Children of the King. Saved by the blood of the Lamb. Thanks, Bryan.

  2. Wonderful thoughts. Wonderful post. Since we’re all missionaries, we all need to hear this message and serve in this mind. “We weren’t Romanian brethren and American brethren. We were brothers and sisters, period. Blood bought adopted kids with the same Father. We were joined with an unbreakable bond that transcended culture or language.”

  3. Great reminder! The true Gospel is about serving others in need, no matter who they are. It is not about glorifying ourselves for doing so, but glorifying God for giving us the opportunity to do so. Thank you.

  4. A purple haired lady on a golden throne asking for money in the name of Jesus . . . what a contrast to washing feet. Great perspective. I’ll be going down with a team of kids from our church to build 3 homes in one week in Mexico this summer. Can’t wait.

  5. I had always wanted to be a missionary but God doesn’t seem to want me to. I had wanted to study medicine and be a missionary doctor but my inability to take high stress prevented me from studying medicine. My low stress needs also limits my ability to handle living in a place that has a different language. So I try to spread the word through my writings.

  6. Reblogged this on proclaimer1 and commented:
    Please read this post. I am reblogging it from a gentleman whose blog I follow. He makes some points that I agree with and I have even said before myself (though slightly different in form).

  7. Brother you are right on point. I once knew a man from Moscow, Russia. He pointed out that when the iron curtain fell and missionaries flooded into their country bringing bibles, codes of conduct, money, “things”, and told people how they needed to be like the Americans. He said most of these missionaries stayed about a week to a month, then left never to return. A few sent another who stayed another week to a month (having come about a year after the 1st one left). He told me that no one came after the 2nd one left. This man said that what most Russians learned that Christians from America were just about making themselves feel and look good. He said that if people truely wanted to help they would have come and stayed.

    After he told me a out this I took a good look around. I found this to be true even here in America, on our own soil. Look at how the soup kitchens and homeless shelters are overflowing with donations and volenteers around thanksgiving and Christmas, yet those same people through the rest of the year forget those same needy people. I have worked through the year at rescue missions. The homeless and needy have a term for those who only show up in the thanksgiving / Christmas season. They call them “holliday people”. This is not done in a mean or unthankful manner, but is done in recognizing that they are people who only act on their conscience in a certain time of year.

    I believe this information can be used to encourage people to do long term mission work (at home or abroad). I work to bring this type of information to people’s attention so we can help people to do things long term. Not to be more fullfling for ourselves but to better fulfill the work of God and to be a better reflection of who Christ is to those people who have yet to become reborn.

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