Recently, I had a chance to pepper author and church planting wife Christine Hoover with questions about her latest book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.
The book is a resounding call for Christian women to bid adieu to “performance-based Christianity” by living in light of the freedoms of the gospel and is a must-read for every woman, particularly for those in the trenches of ministry. The lessons Christine shares require believers to evaluate their understanding of the greatness of God and the way they serve him in their homes, churches, and communities.
Listen in as Christine shares about the goodness gospel and how it impacts ministries to women.
HIVE RESOURCES: Your book is very personal. The beginning is largely the story of your journey of faith and how you learned to embrace the gospel over “being good.” How many other women in the church do you think resonate with your journey?
Christine Hoover: You’re right, this book is very personal. It was written on my heart through many years of wrestling with spiritual perfectionism. For so long I attempted to be good for God according to my own ability—which is what I term the “goodness gospel”—but then He taught me about His grace and that changed everything for me.
As a pastor’s wife, I’ve found that many Christian women are deeply entangled, as I was, in the bondage of “not good enough.” They live their lives solely based upon what others are saying and the loud voices of expectation in their heads. These voices correspond closely with cultural messages of “do more, try harder” and “be the change you want to see.” They’ve infiltrated our churches and have confused the simplicity and beauty of the gospel of Jesus. I wrote this book for those women, the ones who don’t even know they are living by the goodness gospel but feel the effects of it: the comparison, competition, division, people-pleasing, isolation, self-condemnation, and guilt. There are many Christian women who feel like I did: unloved by God and certain that they’ll never be enough or do enough for Him. I wrote From Good to Grace for them.
HIVE RESOURCES: How important is understanding the “goodness gospel” in women’s ministry? Does it impact what you promote, what types of events you offer, and even what you teach the women in your church?
Christine Hoover: The culture is already telling women they need to be better and try harder; we certainly don’t need women’s ministries propagating these things in relation to the gospel. If we imply we have to be good in order for God to love and use us for His glory, we only add to the burden, guilt, and condemnation women come to the church to be freed from. So it is vitally important that we look at the foundation of our women’s ministries: is everything we do, teach, and promote based upon the true gospel, which leads to life and freedom and a deeper trust of the Lord’s work in us, or is it promoting the goodness gospel, which leads to greater condemnation?
HIVE RESOURCES: How did the goodness gospel impact you in your church planting journey?
Actually church planting took further crutches of self-reliance out from under me. It showed me how the goodness gospel–a reliance on myself and my own abilities–continued to ingrain itself in my heart. Church planting is tough work, but it’s also been the best thing God’s done in my life, primarily because it’s taught me that I can’t bear spiritual fruit on my own. No amount of hard work or my own goodness can change someone’s heart. It’s the Holy Spirit alone. I completely dependent upon God’s grace toward me.
HIVE RESOURCES: In what ways do traditional women’s ministries feed the addiction to the goodness gospel?
Christine Hoover: Women’s ministries must cultivate a great love of, reverence for, and dedication to the Bible while also cultivating a safe environment where women can bare their heart struggles. This is a powerful combination where the Holy Spirit can work, produce fruit, and yield lasting, redemptive change. When one is cultivated without the other, we are in danger of feeding women’s addiction to the goodness gospel. Knowledge of Scripture that we’re not urged to apply will lead to puffing up and self-reliance. Hearts laid bare without the truth of Scripture applied opens the door for worldly wisdom or self-help cliches to be thrown around. We need both Scripture and honesty about our hearts so that we’re able to encourage a deep dependence on the Lord.
HIVE RESOURCES: How can women’s ministries serve women who are paralyzed by the fears of trying to earn God’s love by being good? What are the some practical ways to reverse the addiction to goodness/perfection and help women crave the gospel in our women’s ministries?
Christine Hoover: The gospel is not innate to us. It’s an announcement of good news that we must hear and proclaim to ourselves over and over again. We must let it consistently sink down deeper into every crevice of life. We get it wrong so often because what I term the goodness gospel is innate. We tend to innately believe that external behaviors can change internal realities, so self-effort has an appearance of wisdom to us. We must, as Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “stand firm in the liberty for which Christ has set us free.”
Women’s ministries can serve their women by proclaiming the gospel over and over again. We can tell it in a variety of beautiful ways, because we can apply it to every issue that women deal with: comparison, body image, shameful and secret sin, marriage, singleness, widowhood, friendship, and more. We serve our women when we don’t just pass out tips for being “better” at roles and responsibilities but when we give them gospel truths. The gospel is life. We also serve them when we don’t cater to whims but when we dig deeper into the gospel.
I think in our churches we often focus on what the gospel says about salvation, but we aren’t always talking about how the gospel applies to our sanctification. How do we grow? How does the Holy Spirit work in our daily lives? What does it mean to walk by faith? Without understanding these concepts, we naturally revert back to the goodness gospel.
Christine Hoover: In From Good to Grace, I talk about the type of counsel we give other women. We can give women the goodness gospel (do better, try harder) or we can give them the gospel of grace, which is that God has provided not only for salvation but has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We want to disciple women in a way that pushes them to seek God’s voice, know God’s voice, and obey God’s voice. The goodness gospel, however, puts the burden for discipleship on the discipler. I have to give perfect wisdom. I have to tell them what to do. It is my responsibility to make sure they do the right thing. It’s my responsibility to discipline them and be their Holy Spirit. Ultimately, if I disciple according to the goodness gospel, I have to be good. I am not a fellow learner or a fellow sojourner in need of grace.
HIVE RESOURCES: In your book you talk about how the goodness gospel impacts the way women relate to one another. What advice would you offer a women’s ministry leader who is battling unhealthy relationships and trying to implement some of these measures?
Christine Hoover: Have conversations about it. Our church recently held a women’s retreat where we talked about these exact issues. We looked at the root beliefs of comparison, competition, and disunity among women and then we looked at what the gospel says about these things. We had very honest conversations about broken relationships in the church; in fact, I shared with one of my friends about how our friendship had deteriorated and how God had restored it. We wanted to model how we fight for unity, how the gospel gives us the power to do that, and how we confess and repent in community.