America loves its reality shows. Especially the ones where someone on the verge of death, bankruptcy, or homelessness is saved by a charismatic host and their team of life-changers!
Extreme Home Makeover comes in and tears down ratty homes to rebuild mini-mansions for deserving families in need. Kitchen Nightmares, though it includes more cussing and fighting than others, still ends with Gordon Ramsey rebuilding a kitchen, fixing the menu, getting customers to come in, and saving the restaurant. And of course, The Biggest Loser, where obese people are inspired to work their hardest to lose the weight once and for all!
These are all stories of amazing transformations that start with a major mess and, in a few days or weeks, everything has changed for the better! And we get all warm and fuzzy.
Unfortunately, that’s when the REAL reality sets in, because the core problems are still there.
Many families on Extreme Home Makeover lose or have to sell their homes.
Nearly all restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares have closed or been sold.
Most Biggest Losers gain most of the weight back.
I’m not trying to be a killjoy. These shows are inspirational and there certainly is a percentage, however small, that has a life changing experience and actually recovers. But, the reality is, quick fixes are not the right answer to real problems.
When it comes to real, positive change, it takes the development of new, better routines and habits.
Of the very few people I know personally who lost a lot of weight (without surgery), did so by slowly developing better eating habits. And I know from personal experience that losing weight in a short amount of time by starving yourself garners only temporary success. I lost 70 pounds, then, gained it all back plus more.
The same thing foes for spiritual change.
We’ve all heard several testimonies about people living wrong and then they get saved and the story ends! Hooray!
Unfortunately, when the cameras are off and the testimony is over, the grim reality sets in: Most people who get saved still struggle for years overcoming habitual sins.
Salvation is, of course, the most important thing, but we should make it just as much of a priority to help the newly saved develop new and better habits, find new friends and accountability partners, and be supported for years to come.
Unlike those popular reality shows, we can’t just let the heartwarming change occur and then drive away, leaving the new Christians to fend for themselves.
Because it’s human nature: If we don’t learn better habits, we’ll return to the old ones.
Matthew Coker is a Media Director at a church in his hometown, where he also is a leader at a Celebrate Recovery program. He’s a huge comic book nerd, Whovian, and Greendale Human Being. Matthew and his wife live in New Mexico.