Tinkerbell Christianity

by Mark Gungor

Why does the Church seem to be so impotent today?

As I look at what we Evangelical Christians have accomplished over that last decades, I cannot help but be stunned at how far we have “dumbed down” the Christian message.  For the last fifty years, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on crusades, television and radio broadcasts, concerts and outreaches trying to get as many people as we possibly can to “believe” in Jesus.  We have told millions of people that if they just “acknowledge Jesus as their savior, they will be saved!”


We have convinced millions of people that all they needed to do was “repeat this prayer after me…” and Christ would transform them from the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of our glorious God.  That “it doesn’t matter what you do – just believe”.  That once they let those magic words ooze over their tongue, push past their teeth and bubble over their lips, they would now would become real Christians.


How did we ever let this empty blather of hollow religion become the centerpiece of the Christian message?  It is inconsistent with the teachings of the New Testament.  Even a casual reading of the gospels gives us a radically different picture of the true message of Christ.  Let’s look the Gospel of Matthew and read just some of what Jesus actually said.  Let’s start at chapter 4:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

“Come, follow me,”  At once they left [everything] and followed him.

“I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

“If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

“You cannot serve both God and money.”

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

And that was just lightly skimming through 3 chapters.  Keep reading – it gets worse.

One cannot honestly read the words of Jesus and help but come away with this one overwhelming message: unless you are willing to give up every thing, every sin and everybody in your life, you cannot be his disciple.  Yet somehow, we have taken the glorious message of faith, repentance and total commitment to God and boiled it down to one simple message for the world around us: “just believe”.

It reminds me of the story of Peter Pan.  If you have ever seen a stage show of Peter Pan, you know there is a special scene where Tinkerbell is losing all of her power and is about to die.  That is when an appeal is made to the audience to just say “I believe!”.  “If you want to save Tinkerbell, you have to say ‘I believe’!!”  Soon the entire audience is shouting at the top of their lungs, “I believe! I believe!”.  To the delight of all, little Tink is saved.

There you have it, the modern Evangelical message: “just believe”.

Seriously!? Just believe??

Jesus is not some weak fairy that is in desperate need of others to “believe” in him or he will surely die.  He is God.  And someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord of all.  And on that Judgment Day many will watch in horror as countless numbers of those who said “Lord, lord…” with be cast into hell for eternity.

“But pastor, the bible says to believe and we will be saved”.

Indeed.  But when the bible says “believe”, it does not mean a mere acknowledgment of existence like in some Peter Pan play.  It means to completely trust in and then adhere to and obey the teachings of Jesus.  (Re-read the italicized paragraphs above if you have already forgotten what some of that message is.)  In fact, in the Great Commission – where Jesus instructed his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel – he specifically told them to, “teach them to obey everything I commanded you”.

“But pastor, millions have to come to Christ through our simple message of ‘believe’!”

You mean the millions of people that have repeated “the prayer”, who claim to be Christians, who only go to church when it is convenient for them, who never give of their time in service to the Kingdom, who spend more at lunch than they give at church, who ignore their children, who divorce their spouses, who put every thing, every sin and everybody in their lives ahead of Jesus?  You mean those converts??

In our efforts to have churches as large as possible as quickly as possible, we have filled our congregations with people who largely serve Jesus only as long as it is convenient for them.  Some of the largest churches in America actually tell of how they built their congregations by taking surveys to see what people really want in a church.  I don’t know… I have a hard time seeing Jesus taking a survey…

Is it any wonder the church has become so incredibly impotent?  Instead of experiencing the miracle working resurrection power of the living Christ that can transform lives by setting people free from the power of sin, we have churches where miracles are the exception, where bitterness, anger and unforgiveness rule the day, where we barely have the finances to keep our churches operating, where people who are struggling with their emotions need to be medicated and those who suffer from addictions are placed into special programs in order to help them cope.  And we are different from non-believers in what way?

Look, I understand forgiveness for those who fail, but when Jesus forgave someone he told them “Go and sin no more.”  Sadly, we use forgiveness as a green card to sin whenever we please.

The glorious Gospel of Christ that inspired millions of Christian men to sacrifice their lives and treasure, who confidently proclaimed the message of Jesus to hostel pagan cultures, who helped to change the very world in which they lived has now become an anemic message that calls for “accountability partners” to keep our men from masturbating.  Apparently, the only way we can keep from grabbing our crotches is to hold hands with other men in an accountability group.  After all, if we are holding each other’s hands we can’t be grabbing our…well…you know.  Some power…

Am I opposed to recovery groups and accountability partners?  Certainly not.  Let’s use whatever we can to live holy lives.  Its just that it seems to me we are more reliant on our own power today than the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rarely do we hear any messages from the Gospels preached from pulpits today.  And if we do, it is so we can creatively explain away why Jesus didn’t really mean what he said.

Take this not-so-popular verse:

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 19:9

Who believes that anymore?  Jesus gave us one exception to the divorce rule. Yet we, in our great wisdom, have added many others: neglect, abuse, and addictions. And, of course, there is the need for personal happiness and “What if I made a mistake by marrying the wrong person?”  While we are at it, why not add skin rashes and recurring diarrhea as other reasons for divorce?

It has gotten so bad, all you have to do is ask most Christian leaders, “When is what Jesus said about divorce ever true?”  You will witness as they struggle and squirm  to find an answer.

Let’s just be honest: many Christians don’t really believe what Jesus said about this or a host of other issues.  We even have some evangelical pastors like Rob Bell telling us that this is so easy, we don’t have to even believe while we are in this life, we can just believe after we die!  But then, isn’t that the next logical step to the “just believe” advocates?  Now we don’t even have to fear hell.  If only Jesus had been so enlightened…

Until we are ready to embrace the words of Jesus, until we preach the message of turning away from sin, until we begin to emphasize the Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting, scripture memorization and financial giving, until we start teaching people that God is not breathlessly waiting to give them anything their selfish little nature wants if they just have enough “faith” and instead actually wants them to die to themselves, don’t expect to see the real power of God at work any time soon.

We need to repent.  We need to give ourselves once again to the scriptures and rediscover the true Gospel message.  We need to teach that putting Christ first is not an option, but a prerequisite to truly experience the living Savior.

Or we can remain impotent and just keep encouraging Tinkerbell conversions where people simply cry out, “I believe!!!”

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65 Responses to “Tinkerbell Christianity”

  1. Jared says:

    This makes me think about Ray Comfort’s analogy of the naive airplane passenger and the parachute. The passenger has no knowledge of gravity and it’s danger to those who are flying if something were to go wrong with the engines, yet, someone hands him a parachute that he ‘must have.’ In his simpleminded state, he accepts this awesome gift with glee, but the travesty is that he doesn’t know what the parachute could save him from.

    It’s all based on Pauls writing about the fact that he had not known sin ‘but by the law.’ These ‘Tinkerbell’ Christians are accepting a wonderful gift, but they don’t even know WHY they have accepted it…or even what it saves them from.

  2. Catherine Foster says:

    Thank you very much for these wonderful words! Every Christian should use this to measure their church by and if their church is not falling into line with this then they need to find another church to teach and lead them in the right direction!

  3. Tim says:

    Absolutely… Christ calls us to perfection not some half baked philosophy that we can accept because it just so happens to fit in with our outlook on life at this present moment in time.

  4. Lenin says:

    wow… There’s truly little I can say, and just repent. Although I had understood this before, I can’t lie to you brother, and admit that it becomes a struggle at times..

    God bless you, and let’s move forward.

  5. Lenin says:

    I do must say, however, that that part of not divorcing (although I have not married yet) it’s a lot easier to understand when we hear stuff like your explanation on the need to be wise at the moment of dating and getting to know the other.. I think we just took that order to not divorce as just that, and instead forgot again to read all the context and understand that what the Lord was also saying was “to be wise at the moment of dating”..

    Again, God bless

  6. Kristina says:

    Wow! Reading this was like a drink of fresh cold water on a hot thirsty day!!!
    I wish I can find a church to visit that teaches as soberly as the above message!
    Keep preaching the undiluted Word of God! This message is salty! Just as it should be, we are called to be the salt of the world…. Not tasteless diluted good for nothings!

  7. Sherry Propson says:

    Amen Mr. Gungor!!!! Looking forward to attending your marriage seminar. Thank you for the great inspiration and DOING God’s will.

  8. Lori Keim says:

    Hi, Mark. Our Sunday School class did your “Laugh Your Way” series a few years ago. I LOVED it because it was so full of truth – mixed with humor (the “spoonful of sugar”). I’m new to twitter, but looked up your name. I KNEW you’d have a presence there. Sooo… I’m also involved in Celebrate Recovery where our pastor has been talking about the “great divide” – the difference between what Christian say and what Christians do. This truly is the key – trusting what we say we believe enough to act on it!!! My husband and I will celebrate 29 years of marriage this May, and I have to tell you that the first 25 were nothing to celebrate. But, we had taken a vow before God! Marriage is not easy – but God has done a wonderful thing for us and I am in awe. Just this past Sunday on the way home from church I told him how blessed I was when he drops me off and picks me up at the door. For years at our old church I would go to church alone, park in the parking lot, then almost always had to wait for a car that was stopped at the door (a husband dropping off his wife) before going inside. This used to tear me up. I used the say that the only thing I knew I was guilty of coveting was those couples who worshipped and served together. I cried as I told him that this little thing he had decided to do for me meant SO MUCH MORE than he realized. I always believed that God would give us a testimony someday and He is using us now – and we’re still finding our way. I’m thankful for your ministry and I’m glad to have found this blog! :-)

  9. Carlie Clark says:

    This article is fantastic. How can we truly worship Jesus or even want to worship Jesus when we water Him down to a easygoing, unholy ‘mate’ that does not require much from you other than shallow lip service and a heart for socialising?
    I loved this article. Jesus wants all of us, even our thoughts are meant to be holy and a place He can dwell.
    May this message spread far and wide.

  10. Roy Howell says:

    I really like your thoughts about the “Tinkerbell” conversions. I see it everywhere. I have a friend who converted to Catholic religion because, as he put it, “I can do what I want and repent on Sunday during mass and be forgiven.” I have tried to raise my sons to be the man of the house and be the leader for Christ that their children need. I have not been perfect, I’ve made mistakes but thankfully God is there to correct me when I made a mistake and showed my boys He is in charge of my life.
    Thanks for the message, hopefully pastors will read this a make the necessary changes in the message.

    Roy Howell

  11. Dona says:

    Thank you for your message of truth!! If we had all the converts people say they’ve gotten, this country wouldn’t be in the condition of post-Christianity it is currently in.

  12. John says:

    I disagree.
    We are saved by faith.
    Sanctification comes later.

    You’re right that God hates divorce.

    You’re right that living a life of holiness and producing fruit shoud be our goal.

  13. Lynette says:

    God always has a remnant. Thanks Pastor Mark for not fearing to speak the truth. Unfortunately most pastors like to preach ‘false, modern gospels’ that are good for our ears and not for our souls. As much as Jesus is the Lamb of God, He is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. God is a merciful Father, but soon soon, we will face Him as Judge and give account for every careless word utter, and everything we did in the flesh, either good or bad. Acts 17:30-31a In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to REPENT. 31 For He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.

  14. Mike says:

    Fantastic article. I’ve been trying to teach this principle for decades but my “Christian” associates have continually contended I was incorrect and did not understand the Gospel or Jesus. Thank you for giving me a credible reference to point them to in the future. Keep up the good work.

  15. Charlie says:

    I completely agree with your “Tinkerbell Christianity” piece. I read a book written by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision. It is titled, “The Hole In Our Gospel”. It dramatically changed the way I approached life as a follower of Jesus. The church I attend here in Manheim, Pa., did a 4 or 5 week series last year based on that book. It was a good series, but if they would have really pressed the issues of “The Hole In Our Gospel”, I believe it may have severely divided our church. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my church. I would not be the follower of Jesus that I am today. I’ve been told, when I ask others, not to take the Bible so literally. How else am I supposed to take teachings of Jesus? I belive modern evangelism is simply sugar-coating the Bible and not holding Christianity to the standard that it was meant to be held to. Faith isn’t faith unless it is about the “Whole Gospel”.

    Thank You, Mark Gungor, for the openness and sincerity of your ministry.

  16. Linda McFarland says:

    too much to type…but Matthew above Jesus was teaching the “law” to show them that they could NOT keep it…some thought they could, the religious people, but Jesus expounded on the law and made it ever MORE strict…impossible to keep…why? So that they would realize they NEEDED a Saviour..HIMSELF..only Jesus could KEEP THE LAW…and he came to fulfill it..so he preached it while he was on the earth…then the cross as we know is where Jesus BECAME sin for us…so that we would be come the righteous e of God IN CHRIST…righteousness is not right behavior…but right relationship with Jesus and He gives us this as a gift, it is the great exchange…we are saved by Grace not of WORKS..which is the law…it is a gift from God…in Heb. we read that he did away with the OLD Covenant of law keeping…now we need to believe in HIM not try to keep the law to be saved, …break one break them all…my sins and your are forgiven, I used to read the bible with blinders on too…but how we read the bible is critical in context so important…read what Paul preached…this is the new covenant…also check out some of steve mc vey GRACE WALK…….you will find it very interesting…IN Christ…..Linda…

    • Ol' Will says:

      Thank you Linda. Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (1Cor 15). There is nothing we can add to that.

      Christ also said for us to be perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect – an unattainable goal. Perhaps if you read the Sermon on the Mount as a sermon designed to show the futility of self-righteousness it might be better understood than it is by most commentators. God Himself makes us perfect like He is perfect when he, at the moment we believe, imputes Christ’s righteousness and His eternal life into us.

      If salvation results in immediate Christian maturity and a sinless life in this flesh, why is one of the major themes in almost every one of the epistles instruction in holy living to the believing recipients? Instruction about what we should not do and instruction on how we should live.

      Acts 16:30 “…what must I do to be saved?”
      Acts 16:31 “…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…”

      And finally, in Christ’s own words: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life…He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Jn 3:16,18.

      There may be false professions of faith, but adding some kind of works to grace either for salvation or as evidence of salvation leaves us with – not grace – but works/self-righteousness.

      • Randy says:

        There is no such thing as having Christ hide our actual ongoing sinfulness in salvation. This is a teaching which is deceiving thousands on a broad and easy road today. As we read the closing divine-disclosures of the biblical canon we can plainly see that Christ’s return will be one where He looks for the obedience of good works, without a hint of some supposed imputation to conceal what we really are — in reality. In the Revelation 19:8 we read “…and there was given to her that she may be arrayed with fine linen, pure and shining, for the fine linen is the righteous ACTS of the saints.” Then in the closing chapter we read in verses 7 and 12 -

        “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book…..And lo, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to each as his WORK shall be…”

        It doesn’t sound at all as if sinfulness fits these descriptions. Neither does it give the impression in verse 11 that sinfulness is acceptable – “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still…”

        Works are Spirit-generated. They answer the question: “Does the Spirit of Christ dwell within your hearts by faith?” Apart from His Indwelling, we are none of His. (Romans 8:9) It is a grace for obedience to the faith (Romans 1:4,5) and I wouldn’t gamble with this doctrine of Antinomianism (no law) as an assurance of my salvation. We are under the law of principle – the law of Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, as an actual dynamic of His Spirit flowing within us. (Romans 8:2)

  17. Dan says:

    Amen! American Christians’ capacity for self-delusion and self-forgiveness is mind-boggling. Another example: Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25, and Luke 18:24-25 all talk about how it is harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Anyone who has a home to live in, clothes to wear, food to eat, a car, a phone, a refrigerator, and a TV, is richer than at least 95% of the people on this planet. Yet every one of them is smugly certain that they’re going to Heaven. And don’t even open the book of Leviticus if you want to stay comfortable in your life. The people behind http://www.godhatesshrimp.com/ may think it’s a joke, but the Bible is never a joke.

    • Kim S. says:

      Dan, You do realize that we no longer live under the law of the Old Testament, right? I can’t be certain of the exact meaning of your post as it is difficult to perceive someone’s “tone” of conversation on a message board. If we are going to follow part of that law, we must follow it all. Therefore if we are going to follow the diet restrictions of the OT, we must also obey the other restrictions. This means that women cannot go to church while they are menstruating & must be cleansed through the proper means & sacrifices before they can return to churh after their cycle is complete. Not to mention all the other laws & ceremonies mentioned in the OT that would have to be kept such as being cleansed after being near a dead body, etc,. Are you saying we must live by these rules today?

      • Dan says:

        Don’t most people quote Leviticus 18:22 and 20:33 as their primary scriptural bases for their objections to homosexuality? As far as I can tell, a few, but not all of, the Old Testament proscriptions are alive and well in the hearts of Christians everywhere.

      • Dan says:

        I’m sorry; I didn’t really answer your main question. I’m not saying we must live by the OT rules. But I don’t recall anyplace in the New Testament where Jesus says, “You can forget what they said in Leviticus; those rules don’t apply any more.” I’m no Bible scholar, but as far as I know, the decision that the OT rules are obsolete was made by men who decided it really wasn’t convenient to live that way any more, except for the few passages that match their own sense of values, like the ones they use to justify persecuting gay people or demand that we teach our children that the age of the earth is 6,000 years. Obviously the vast majority of Christians have decided it’s worth the risk to ignore all the inconvenient laws. We’ll all find out on the day of reckoning. *I* certainly have no expectation of being welcomed into Heaven based on the eye of the needle alone, and that *is* in the New Testament.

        • Kim S. says:

          Dan – I am sorry that you feel that way regarding being welcomed into Heaven. Indeed, Jesus did say that it is easier for a camel to go through eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. HOWEVER, What you have left out is the following couple of verses: Matthew Chapter 19:24-26: 24 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
          26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

          And there, my friend, is the difference. With GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!” The rich man CAN enter the kingdom of heaven through God’s way – which is through Jesus Christ. The teaching here is that a rich man must be willing to give up all he has to follow Christ, if it is required of him and apparently, that is difficult for a rich man to do. (I wouldn’t know…I’m not a rich man – which I suppose is relative, anyway).

          Regarding the law of the OT…the theme of the entire New Testament is that Jesus came to establish a new covenant with the Jews as well as with the Gentiles. Paul even tried to convince the Jewish believers that they should not be forcing the Gentiles to be circumcised, as was a condition under the OT law. Circumcising them did not make them righteous. Righteousness could only come through their faith in Christ’s sacrifice. That is only one example. The New Testament is full of references that Jesus came to fulfill the law for us so that we are no longer slaves to the law.

          That is not to say that we can live our lives any way we please. It is simply to say that our righteousness is not dependent upon keeping the law. We should still seek to please God.

          You said “I’m not saying we must live by the OT rules” yet you seem to indicate that we are taking a big risk of missing Heaven if we don’t. I ask you this – Do you then believe we must comply with Leviticus 15: 19-30 which basically says that a women is unclean during the time of her cycle and for 7 days after. When people were unclean they were not allowed into the places of worship. That would mean that women could not go to church for at least half of every month. Also, anyone who touched her, sat on anything she sat on, or touched her bed would be considered unclean. Again, just one example of the many, many tedious things we would be slave to, if we were required to follow them. I, for one, am glad that we are not.

          • Dan says:

            Thanks for the thoughtful follow-up, Kim. You’ve added greatly to my understanding of the expanded passage about the camel and the eye of the needle.

            When I said I didn’t think we *must* live by the OT rules, I meant that we appear to have freedom of choice about what rules to follow, with consequences for each and all of our choices. I remain confused by people who seem to put great stock in biblical inerrancy, with the inclusion of the OT in that belief, and by people who use OT scripture to justify social and political, not to mention anti-scientific, attitudes and beliefs. Is the OT relevant and binding, or isn’t it? For quite a few people, it seems to depend on which verses you pick to focus on.

            Personally, if it is required of me to shun women during their cycle, then I’m unwilling to do that and always have been. I am similarly unwilling to shun, condemn, pity, or attempt to change my friends and family members who are gay, or reject the findings of scientists that conflict with what some people get out of the creation verses in Genesis. I’ve been told by more than one devout Christian that I’m going straight to Hell (my brother being one), so I have more or less resigned myself to that, and the eye of the needle verses just seemed to be among the more obvious ones that confirm that destination. Mark’s Tinkerbell Christianity essay that we’re commenting on here exhorts us to actually *do* what’s necessary to earn the right to go to Heaven: give up every*thing*, every*body*, and every *sin*. I don’t pass that test.

  18. Joe says:

    I guess I will be the only one that really does not like this article. I used to be just like this, brought up in an evangelical church and taught that God was just like this. I lived my life for 40+ years terrified of him , trying harder and failing no matter what I did. If God is really as you paint him to be , then we are all doomed. Remember our real picture of God should be that of his son. When is our effort enough to get us into heaven. When have we turned enough from sin to make it in. Trust me this is a game you can’t win. If anything we do pushes us over the edge into heaven, then the cross is emptied of its power.

    You say in your article “We need to repent. We need to give ourselves once again to the scriptures and rediscover the true Gospel message.”
    Do you realize what your saying, repent “once again” and try again and try harder this time, because you keep failing. Do you see a pattern. I’m not saying do what you want, but I am saying that our own effort will never stop us from sinning and it certainly wont get us into heaven. That is why Christ died for us. He knew then that we could never overcome it on our own and nothing has changed, we still can’t. This is a performance based view of a relationship with God and it is an empty one that I lived for 40+ years until it almost drove me crazy. If you want a glimpse another possible and fantastic view of God, go read “He Loves Me” by Wanye Jacobsen. I highly recommend it.. God Bless.

    • Ol' Will says:

      Amen, Brother.

      Col 2:20-23 says that self-righteous activity is doomed to failure.

      In addition to Joe’s testimony, you can get another good example of the failure of self-righteousness to give peace to the “striver” by getting a biography of Martin Luther. Pay attention to his life and attitudes before he discovered the Gospel message of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.

      I don’t think anyone would call Luther a “Tinker-Bell Christian” but the Gospel that he proclaimed is the same one that is talked against in this article. Substituting energy of the flesh for faith in Christ. All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags (menstrual cloths) (Isa 64:6).

  19. Paul Heisig 111 says:

    Many of us read and re-read the Bible in an attempt to find our way in the Christian Faith. I know based on studying the Word of God, only God sees our heart, and knows if we are saved and in the Book of Life. My walk with God is based on treating others the way I would like to be treated, and understanding I can NOT work my way into heaven. I have accepted the gift of Salvation through the blood of Christ, and I depend on the Holy Spirit to help me walk with God.
    Each individual is responsible for their actions and choices. As a mentor and friend once told me satan is ready to meet you at your point of compromise. Stand firm and learn to love as Christ loved us. Store your treasures in Heaven, and God willing you can enjoy them. Remember none of us deserve salvation it is not an entitlement, it is a gift from our Father God. What did the thief on the cross do,and how was he able to repent? He saw Christ, and believed. Christ is not Tinkerbell, and again only God sees our heart.

  20. Paul says:

    I get your point. There are certainly some eyebrow raising trends in the evangelical church. But you are painting with some really broad strokes, here. First, Are lots of churches really telling their people that believing is enough? And are those affectionately called ‘converts’ not really converted? The transformation has to start somewhere. And I can assure you, it is not with me. All I have to do is step on a scale to prove to myself how inept I am at transformation.

    Has everyone here completely trusted in, adhered to, and obeyed ALL of the teachings of Christ this year? How about this month or week? How about today? Christ called his disciples, while they were still awesome at sinning, to come follow him, to have a relationship. After years of ministering with Him, some of them STILL didn’t have it all together, and they were walking shoulder to shoulder with Christ daily. I believe we diminish His sacrifice for us when we don’t lean on it. I know Christ went all the way for me and I’m inspired to do the same for Him, and comforted by the fact that He meets me at step one. Believing.

    Perhaps the bath water AND the baby just left the building.

  21. MARY PANTIER says:




  22. Charlie says:

    Let’s stop arguing! I believe in the total transformation of what true faith should bring. In the deepest and darkest corners of my heart I truly want grace to be enough. Simply because there are people in this world I can’t imagine living without right now. I certainly can’t imagine living without them for eternity! If grace is enough, then I will rejoice with everyone! I for one am not going to take that chance with the life and purpose that was given me. As followers of Jesus we are called to see the face of Christ in “The Least Of These”. We give our faith a black eye and show others that we can’t even agree among ourselves. So let’s just stop arguing and show others Christ in us. AMEN!

  23. Ryan Kerbs says:

    Beautiful. I never cease to be amazed at your honesty. I appreciate that you do not sugar-coat your words. This message about the reality of Christianity is something that I am all too familiar with, but I fear that I become distracted from it at times. I needed to read this, and I will share this article with people that I know. Thank you.

  24. Kim S. says:

    I must say that I agree with Linda and Joe. Our salvation rests in our faith in God’s grace and our belief that Jesus atoned for our sins through his death & resurrection. Period. Nothing…I repeat, nothing that we “do” (beyond having faith) earns our salvation. If this is not the case, what do you do with Ephesians 2:8-9? – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Jesus died for us because He knew we could not keep the law or live our lives in such a way to be deserving of Heaven.

    I will agree that the Gospel has been watered down in many (if not most) churches today. Sin is not preached, nor is repentance. I do believe you have to understand that you are hopelessly lost in sin before you can come to the realization that you need a Savior – you must realize you are lost before you can be found, so to speak. That is the function of the “law” – to show us that we cannot possibly save ourselves by being “good enough”.

    Once we place our faith in Jesus Christ & receive his gift of salvation, we are called to follow His commandments (though we ALL will fall short as we are human beings & still live with a sin nature) and do good works in His name to reach others.

    I think I understand the overall theme of your post – and I agree with it to an extent. It does require more than just acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God, as even demons & Satan himself do that. It requires us putting our faith in Him & having a personal relationship with Him daily. But I think if we believe that following all of His commands such as tithing, giving to the poor, loving others, etc. will be enough to get us into Heaven then we have ignored the sacrifice that Christ made for us through His death. If following His commandments were the way to salvation, then why did He die?

    It just seems to me that you have put entirely too much emphasis on what we must “do” to be saved. What about Romans Chapter 10? – 1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

    One other thing – You wrote “One cannot honestly read the words of Jesus and help but come away with this one overwhelming message: unless you are willing to give up every thing, every sin and everybody in your life, you cannot be his disciple.” I have a sincere question about this as it is something that I have struggled with. What does following this command look like in everyday life? How is this accomplished? Am I to sell everything I have & live a life of poverty? Am I to abandon my family and set out on a mission to knock on doors to tell others of the Gospel of Christ? I guess I struggle with how to implement this into my own daily life. How much money is too much? Should I not strive to live an abundant life? Should we be living lives of deprivation? I mean, most days I’m just trying to get things done – homeschool kids, prepare meals, wash clothes, support husband by running errands & doing things he needs done. I do include prayer time & Bible study, but my day does not completely concentrate on spiritual matters every waking moment. Does this mean that I’m not “saved” or not “a good Christian”? This is just something I struggle with.

  25. Kim S. says:

    One more comment: I particularly took exception with this statement: “where people who are struggling with their emotions need to be medicated”. OK…this is extremely personal to me. I have had to take anti-depressents in the past due to clinical depression. I am here to tell you that it is NOT a place where I wanted to be. I hope I never go to that place again. I am also here to tell you that even though I could rationalize in my head (thought processes) that I had no good reason to be depressed in that I have Jesus as my Savior, a husband who loves me, kids who love me, plenty of food, warm house, otherwise good health and other family members who love me…none of that mattered. No amount of trying to reason with myself helped. It is a deep, dark place where it feels hopeless & in many cases it is truly a physiological problem that needs medication. It was only after taking the anti-depressents that I began to get better. Would you tell a diabetic that he doesn’t need his insulin? Mental health matters are complex, but there are legitimate cases where medication is needed, at least for a short time. Insinuating that needing to be medicated for “emotional issues” is somehow wrong or sinful is uncalled for, in my opinion. It continues to perpetuate the stigma of being diagnosed with a mental health condition. This is harmful in that it discourages people from seeking medical help when it is needed for fear of being judged by others.

    • Bex says:

      What does it mean to follow Christ daily? I think thats something we all need to figure out for ourselves. We need to pray and ask God what it is He wants us to do. Jesus told one guy to go sell all he had, that doesnt mean that is something we all must do but shows that we cannot be attached to our stuff. God may bless us with the ability to make lots of money, so that we can contribute financially to a missions trip, orphans in Africa, etc. I think for most people its just about living every day, keeping you spirit tuned into the Holy Spirit to circumstances where you can bless someone else, and putting others before yourself.
      As for taking medications – of course there is nothing wrong with taking correctly prescribe medications to deal with serious health problems. The issue arises when we run to accountibility partners for problems such as masturbating – we are suppose to have the power of the Holy Spirit in us! The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, but we can’t control our sexual urges? There is something wrong there!

  26. Connie says:

    Thank you Mark Gunger for all you do to help others. Thank you for your “TinkerBell” article. How tragic that many people could be lost because they repeated the Sinners Prayer, believing that is all they had to do, to receive salvation. Thank you for your teachings through “Laugh Your Way Through Marriage”. It was delightful, enlightening and lifted my spirit. Your way of showing the differences between men and women was perfect!


  27. Joe says:

    Sorry I cant let this go.. Another thing that just struck me from your article is this quote “And that was just lightly skimming through 3 chapters. Keep reading – it gets worse.”

    Its so funny how we want to give people the “good news” about Christ when down deep in our hearts we don’t think its good at all, when we have such a dictator like view of God, like you said, “it gets worse” as you go. Welcome to Christianity would you like to join our joyful loving group , who’s leader is ready to burn you for all eternity if you don’t straighten up ?

    • B says:

      So the “good news” about Christ is you’re saved no matter what? Wow, sorry but I absolutely refuse to embrace your universalism (or antinomianism at best) view.

      It’s good news because we never deserved grace or mercy, in fact God could have easily and rightfully so let us die in our sins in completel rebellion to Him. But no, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

      The good news was never meant to be “you’re free to do whatever the heck you want now free from all repercussion”

      • Joe says:

        You have put words in my mouth. I never said I was a universalist, in fact I really cant be sure what happens when we die. I was trying to provoke some honest thought about what our view of God is. However you make a statement that says you “absolutely refuse to embrace your universalism (or antinomianism at best) view.”

        You sound like you feel pretty strong about that, I used to feel the exact same way, I thought after all, the way I have lived my life and trying to follow Christ , others deserve to get whats coming to them. I’m not so sure God feels the same way. Look how he treated Saul who was out killing his followers.

        You also said
        “in fact God could have easily and rightfully so let us die in our sins in complete rebellion to Him.”

        We can play the God could have game all day, I could easily say, God could of not put that miserable good and evil tree in the garden, and just put the tree of life only but I have a feeling God knows what he is doing, he had these plans for us before he ever even created what we know as time. I think its just what we really think of him that determines how we interpret scripture.

        Like I said, I don’t know what is really the correct view, but would it be so hard to believe that God was actually that kind and would save everyone ? I mean , he asks us to forgive others no matter what they do to us ? Are we that much more forgiving than he is ?

        And finally, no one said you can do what you want without repercussion. The bible says the wages of sin is death, (not eternal torture). God does not want us to sin, sin is its own “reward” here on earth as it destroys us. We do pay for our sin, everyday in some way or another. That pains God to see, since he loves us so dearly and knows that it destroys us.

        Keep seeking brother..

        • Ol' Will says:

          Joe! For goodness’ sake. What do you mean by, “Like I said, I don’t know what is really the correct view…”?

          Why don’t you read The Gospel of John? Especially pay attention to the Last Supper scene (referred to as The Upper Room Discourse) and the words of Jesus there. I think that will give you the correct view.

          Read Ephesians 2:1-10. That will give you the correct view.

          Read Revelation 19-20 especially ch. 20 about the Great White Throne Judgment and the lake of fire. That will give you the correct view.

          Have you been listening to others (especially liberals and atheists) “interpret” Scripture for you without reading it for yourself? Well, the passages that I suggest for you to read are pretty clear and require very little interpretation.

          You may choose not to believe what God has breathed in His word (2Tim 3:16), but the words are plain for any who are simple minded enough to accept the words at face value.

          God didn’t cause the fall. Man did. God was not obligated to save any yet in his love and by His mercy and grace, He provided a way to escape the penalty of sin, but it is on His own terms, not ours. Read my earlier posts on this same page.

  28. Joy Moehlenpah says:

    Way to go, Mark. I have been enjoying your articles for a few weeks now since someone sent me your newsletter. This Tinkerbell message is right on. My husband and I have talked with each other about this and are praying about it with regards to the church at large. We need a revival of repentance. The gospel we heard preached as young people changed people’s lives. We had to repent and make Jesus the Lord of our lives. I’m glad to know that there is one pastor who is speaking out. God bless you and your ministry.

  29. Bex says:

    First of all, the scripture where Jesus is talking about seperating the sheep from the goats and that not all those whosay ‘Lord Lord’ will enter into the Kingdom scare me! I wish it was as easy as just believing, because I definitely believe! 

    I listen to your radio show as well as your sermons online all the time and I completely agree with this message! It wasnt until P.Marks session on sex in the Laugh Your Way dvds (as well as a few of his online sermons) that my eyes were open to the sinful way I was living (with my bf) while just believing in God. I was just a baby Christian at the time, but the hard hitting, honest messages really hit home for me and my bf, and we saw that we needed to change things quickly if we wanted to be blessed by God. And I am proud to say this weekend I will be celebrating one year of marriage! 
    I love my home church and pastors there (who have some strong convictions that they preach about) and I enjoy their messages, but they rarely talk about sex from the pulpit. However I do listen to a few online sermons from different churches, which I think is a great way to hear different view points and I am always pleased when I hear others who agree with P.Marks teachings. 

    Yes there is Gods grace and we are saved by faith and I do believe God loves us no matter what – the problem is that this is only a part of the gospel and preachers need to start teaching the whole, complete gospel. We are so worried now a days of offending someone, but honestly Jesus offended a lot of people and He is the example we should be following. We must speak the TRUTH in love, not just speak about love. 

    People have been saying that we are saved by faith and faith alone, which I agree, but the bible also tells us that faith without works is dead. Its not about working our way into heaven, but we are to walk out our faith (with fear and trembling). Jesus forgives us of our sins when we turn to Him and away from our sins, but Jesus does say to ‘go and sin more more’. Does that mean after we repent we’ll never sin again? Unlikely. What it means, to me anyways, is that we go on living our lives in a way that honours God, not knowingly or willfully sinning. 

  30. chris says:

    Mark….”the Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting, scripture memorization and financial giving,????Scripture memorization????
    Now add the ubiquitous “quiet time” and you are in another weak place….the place where you follow that formula (instead of saying that quick prayer) and all is well.

    This list has become actually a problem for marriages, as new Christian couples de-couple because somewhere a wife go the idea that the “servant leader husband” looks like this….do ABCD, and they WANT that, and anything short of that, well, she is unhappy and divorcing.

    be careful what you advocate without considering how it gets twisted into more and more expectations in marriage

  31. Walter says:

    Wow Mark,
    That’s profound and stirring. It’s not a sanguine “Laugh yourself to heaven” message. It’s not a gospel lite. We need to hear that – thank you.

  32. Moema Mobley says:

    I’m glad to see that God is talking with His Church through this country. The message in our local church has been the same of this issue you are talking about: stop to play church and live a real christian life, with all our heart for the glory of the Kingdom, obeying what Jesus taught. God is raising a glorious church that will demonstrate His power. God bless you

  33. millan says:

    The only problem with us many christians is we never present ourselves to Jesus, the saviour to do as He pleases with us. We want to reason, to analyse and understand before we obey when He commands us.
    I like it when Jesus says, that if its Gods will, to let the cup pass. The cup didnt pass, it was Gods Wil and He did it. He died for us, not because of anything, but because of Gods Will.Lets pray for the spirit to open our eyes and ears to the voice of the Lord Jesus and follow His will.

  34. Natalia says:

    I am amazed at your enthusiasm to follow the Bible enthusiastically, however I was wondering one this blog post you encourage people to follow scripture (or seem to) but in you DVD series there are a lot of questions my church and I have as to how your teaching is biblical on Laugh Your Way To a Better Marriage. For example, ” Bartering” you use an example of your wife with holding sex. That directly contradicts with scripture in 1 Corinthians, why do you encourage it? And there are several other questions I have too if you can answer them please? Another member of my church emailed you over a month ago and we have not received any reply. Your response would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  35. Ben says:

    I think the issue with faith and works are reconciled this way: When I trust and believe in Jesus with all my heart, the whole of my life and my actions change to reflect that belief. We truly are saved by faith alone and not works, but faith is far greater than a Tinkerbell magic formula. Faith means absolute trust in Jesus, believing that whatever you give up, He is worth much more than what you sacrifice. Like Jesus Himself said, it’s like selling off everything you have to buy a precious pearl or a treasure trove because it’s worth everything. (Matthew 13:44-46)

    It’s true, turning Christianity into a litany of rules simply makes a stiff, dead religion devoid of power. The Bible says as much. I live in Southeast Asia and I know friends of other faiths who practice self-discipline that put Christians to shame and adhere to rules that far outstrip Christianity in severity–yet they still find not life and peace. It’s faith in Jesus, trust in His power and mercy, and a living, breathing relationship with Him that transforms us. The laws of the Bible form a massive jigsaw puzzle with a Christ-shaped missing piece–unless you have a living relationship with the Son of God, well, you don’t get the perfect picture, and the pieces already in place just frustrate you even more.

    That said, I believe faith needs major effort. Jesus told those He forgave to sin no more, and spoke about striving to enter the narrow gate. The thief on the cross fought crippling pain and the despair of death to ask: ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.’ I think Paul’s analogy of the athlete best illustrates this. The gold-medal athletes and heroes of our day shine above the rest because of their overwhelming faith and belief that they can succeed. That faith drives them to soul-crushing, body-ripping effort to deny bodily pleasure and embrace pain; to get up at five every morning to train and sweat when others roll over in bed; to adhere to a strict diet for months on end, with no breaks for ice cream or sweets. Their faith in themselves is the key factor, and no athlete has won a prize without first having complete faith that they can win. If these athletes trust in the human body, with its weakness and frailty, and their faith drives them to such superhuman discipline–what of us, who have access to unimaginable power in Christ, who serve the King of Kings, who are watched over by Heaven? Can we look at a worldly perishable crown and see that it requires superhuman effort and discipline, and then look at the heavenly crown and say, well, Tinkerbell ought to do it? By no means!

    I am a twenty year old college student, and I’ve been struggling for some time with addiction. I’ve fought it and failed, and fought again, and sought help for it. I believe that Christ Jesus can deliver me, and I pray that He will, and that means I will give everything in me to fight and win over this stronghold in my life. Whatever it costs me, Jesus is worth more. I hope you guys can pray for me, and hope you can teach me how to walk in Christ. Thanks for your time!

  36. Tommy says:

    Great article, I am sure someone not born of God’s Spirit would think you are legalistic. I just happen to think you understand obedience to a loving Heavenly Father.


  37. Cheryl says:

    Hello I read your article on Tinkerbell Christianity. I enjoyed it very much. However don’t agree with something I want to share with you. I understand that marriage is a beautiful institution by God. I became. Christian 2 yrs after my husband & I married. He was actually a preachers kid. He even introduced me to God. He was back slidden but began teaching me a few things in scripture. It was very little because I adapted his perception of truth & it cost me dearly. We had 2 beautiful children who are now adults. I stayed in a religious state for 17 of our 22 yr marriage. He could never help me & I was struggling because he claimed to be a believer. I never knew when the conversion took place if it ever did while we were married. We struggled our entire marriage in that we were never compatible to begin with. I had no discernment so I did marry the wrong man. It wasn’t till the last 5 yrs of our marriage that I came to a real cornerstone in that I was either going to die one day & never become all that God had for me or I was going to have to leave. I believe God showed me something in that when we did marry it was not ordered by Him because I had no spiritual discernment. When 2 people in scripture made a covenant it was because they both understood the terms & conditions. I honestly was so ignorant of covenant it was pathetic. I believe that the Lord showed me that in wedding vows when it is said that what God joins together let no man separate that He God could not have brought us together sex did. We bonded because we had sex that’s all. So if God never brought us together then the contract was void from a spiritual standard. God did release me from this marriage & I know this in my heart & spirit because we never spiritually connected only physically. Now that our divorce is final God has been doing amazing things in my life. He & I are on civil terms & I am now living the life in Christ I’ve always wanted since salvation. I love Jesus with my whole self & my past is under the blood. I tell you this because how can a covenant be one if 1 or more of the 2 making the cevenant didn’t have revelation of what a covenant is when they made it. I understand now what it is. What we had was not ordered by God it was because of sex. Amen

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