Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Don’t Mistake “Liking Church” for Being a Believer

When I preach/teach at PCC, I do so in a manner to make it understandable (to anyone regardless of age or spiritual background).  I'm not responsible  to make God's Word relevant. My job as an expositor is to show people how relevant it already is.  I am not permitted to dull its edge because some might find its message as sharp as a razor.  And because the Bible is literally God-breathed, I can count on it to speak for itself.  There is no guarantee that people will like or agree with the sermon since I strive to teach whatever the text is saying regardless of its potential receptivity.  But, we do call it a “win” if people understand and receive what is being proclaimed.  And I'm glad to say that hundreds of people each week find this to be a positive experience at PCC.

Having stated that, our goal is not to find people who – don’t like church –  and get them to like church.  Our goal is to preach Word and make disciples.  Besides, most disciples will like church automatically because church is where they worship God, fellowship with saints, and learn the Word. 

If, on they other hand, our goal is to find people who don’t like church and get them to like church, we have to do something different.  We have to remove the things the don’t like and replace it with things they do like.

For now, it appears there are a handful of themes that will do the job.  Many people who are cold to church are nonetheless warm to self-improvement regarding marriage, family, communication skills, relationship conflict, sex, money, and occupation.  As a result, such themes can be marketed year after year because they are inoffensively therapeutic.

My concern is the attitude which is assumed by all parties:  If people come to church it means they love Jesus.

That’s simply not true. 

For example, many of the themes churches are using to get people to “like church” are NOT anchored directly in the core message of God’s Word.

The Top 7 Themes to attract people who don’t like church are:
  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • Communication
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Sex
  • Money
  • Occupation
Yet, the content of those seven themes is usually not rooted in what Jesus actually said about them.  More often than not, it’s a 35 minute talk of soft psychology (where the work of a specialist, therapist, or author is used) with a few scriptures sprinkled in.  Or the listeners might be given a homework assignment for self improvement (create a date night, have sex twice a week, try giving 1% and see what happens, etc), with a few more scriptures thrown in.

It’s just enough of the Good Book to make it feel like church, but not so much that people are confronted by the Bad News that gives them a need for the Good News.

From this sort of nonsense, one could, in all sincerity, “like church” because it’s not really church, leading people to believe that they love Jesus, when in fact, they don’t!

But when confronted with the core of Jesus’ gospel, such people would gag worse than a thirsty man in a desert trying to swallow a horse pill with a case of Arizona dry-mouth:

“23 If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26

This is Jesus’ unequivocal message in less than 100 words.  And I might add, this is the only message that saves.

It’s easy to love church when it’s merely a religious version of the Jay Leno show.   But it’s a different thing to love Jesus (as He truly is) and the Church He died for.

To  be a follower of Jesus means you love the things He loves, hate the things He hates, and delight in the full council of His Word.

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