Why You Can’t Compare the Gospel to the Ice Bucket Challenge

by alyssacogswell

Earlier today, I saw a Facebook post which said, “What if we spread the Gospel as fast as we spread the Ice Bucket Challenge?” It took such restraint not to immediately comment on this status and rip into the person who posted it.

You cannot spread the Gospel like the Ice Bucket Challenge for several reasons. One of them being: One is a dare, a challenge. The other is a whole entire paradigm and life shift. No one wants to back down from a dare, especially one issued publicly. Daring people publicly pushes them to do something for the approval of others, to show that they aren’t afraid of looking silly nor afraid to admit they’d rather donate more money than pour ice water on their heads and donate a lesser amount. The Gospel is not a dare, and I should hope to God that people don’t follow it just because of fear of public or familial rebuke. Following the Gospel is something that must be sincere, and must be talked about with sincerity. Pouring ice water and donating is easy; all you have to do is make a video, fill up a bucket, click a couple of buttons on the Internet and *boom*, you’re done. But talking about and following the Gospel takes so, so much more. Following the Gospel takes a literal lifetime of trials, celebrations, droughts, floods, deserts, valleys, mountains, birth and death. One cannot be done with the Gospel or fulfill the call on their lives in 10 minutes. To follow the Gospel and to tell others about the Gospel takes a lifetime of learning; you must learn discipline and discernment, compassion, encouragement, kind words, and how to lean on the Spirit for strength when you have none. Following the Gospel (including spreading it) is a supernatural act. Any able-bodied person can dump water on their head.

We are never fully done spreading the Gospel, but we can be fully done with the Ice Bucket Challenge.

The Gospel is not a general statement most people agree with. Curing disease is. People will get behind something that supports a cause they believe in. Most people on this planet do not want disease or sickness. Asking people to unify and stand together to fight this debilitating illness is what’s so awesome about the Ice Bucket Challenge: It’s about people all over the world, from different countries, religions, races, incomes, and political beliefs standing behind ALS research and charities to truly make a change. That’s why it’s viral. We love watching Laura Bush throw water on her husband who, in turn, challenges Democratic President Bill Clinton. We love watching a star of one of the biggest movies of the summer down alcohol, then have his wife and a friend pour buckets and buckets of ice water on him. We enjoy this because it brings not only laughter, but hope of a cure. It’s something new and novel. We want to keep seeing people do it until it gets old, which will probably happen within the next two weeks.

Now about the Gospel:

Not everyone can get behind the Gospel. Faith in the Gospel is supplied by the Holy Spirit. Trying to “challenge people to believe the Bible” or trying to spread the Gospel like a viral video will only be a detriment to Christianity. Religion is extremely personal. Some people are not able to understand how if God is good, so much bad can happen, or if God is good, why let sin into the world anyway? The best thing we can do with those close to us who do not believe is love on them and gently answer any questions they may have about our faith or our Jesus. We must be vulnerable to admit that we don’t have all the answers. Others may not be able to believe because they truly can’t understand why anyone would want to follow a religion which has objectified and enslaved so many people in the past 2000 years. They may not be able to believe in a religion in which those who are supposed to be the most godly and the authorities and leaders in the faith community abuse children while in ministry. They see the Church and think, “If they are supposed to live like Christ, they certainly don’t look like it.” And while that thought is good and valid and something that should definitely be addressed, realize that the person is actually thinking about this quite rationally by Earth’s standards and without a the influence of faith and salvation in his or her worldview. We must minister to those we have abused; penance of sorts must be done not for our salvation, but that we may better show the character of our Lord to all peoples.

Others are culturally not obliged to believe in Christianity. This is okay as well. We, again, must love with tenderness, kindness, and gentleness. The reason why we are on this Earth is not so that we can “find our calling” or to “carry out this really, really specific Earthly task”, but to live our lives as a witness to Christ. In our everyday doings, we should live out the Gospel. We will do many tasks and have many callings at different times in our lives, but one thing that will always stay the same is the God-ordained purpose on each of our lives: to glorify Him. We are not put on this Earth to shove the Bible into people’s faces or damn them to Hell if they do not believe; God is the judge, not us. We are simply here to glorify Him whether it be through serving the homeless, teaching, being a big business person, or being a parent. The Ice Bucket Challenge serves only one purpose: to raise awareness and money for ALS research and treatment.

To say  “What if we spread the Gospel as fast as we spread the Ice Bucket Challenge?” is to reduce the Bible to a viral challenge which will fade away in a month or less. But the Gospel is everlasting, outside of time, a story for the ages. It will take however long it will take to complete, God willing sooner rather than later. To say  “What if we spread the Gospel as fast as we spread the Ice Bucket Challenge?” is to relegate people to unfeeling, unquestioning blank slates who will willingly accept something just to show they support this thing they are told to support. To say  “What if we spread the Gospel as fast as we spread the Ice Bucket Challenge?” disregards all the good, even spreading of the Gospel, which has been accomplished through this challenge.