No one ever built a great church by emphasizing what they’re against. (Well, no one but Jesus ever built any church, but you get what I mean.)
After all, the word “gospel” means good news.
What you’re against may be really bad. And opposing it may be very important. But what you’re against isn’t good news. There’s no salvation in it, because it’s possible for people to agree completely on your list of sins and still not have a relationship with Jesus.
But churches keep doing do it, even though no church, large or small, ever became great that way. Because even if we convince others to be against what we’re against, it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be for what we’re for.
Not Sinning Never Saved Anyone
Imagine that you and your church campaigned against a sin that was destroying the moral fiber of your neighborhood, city or nation. Now imagine that your efforts were successful. So successful that you actually changed the laws, got everyone to agree that it’s wrong and stopped that sin from ever occurring again.
Do you realize all of that could happen without one person becoming a follower of Jesus?
Great churches aren’t built by yelling about the sin-of-the-week. Great churches are communities where hurting, broken, and sinful people find hope, grace, healing, and salvation through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
There’s no salvation in agreeing on how bad any particular sin is – even if it really is as bad as we think it is.
A Great Church Doesn’t Ignore Bad News Either
This doesn’t mean we should never give people bad news.
To use an old, but true cliché, it’s not loving for a doctor to refuse to tell a patient that they have a life-threatening disease. The doctor has a moral obligation to break bad news to the patient – especially when the doctor has access to the cure.
Sin is real and hell is hot. That’s the bad news.
Great churches don’t ignore those truths any more than a good doctor ignores a bad diagnosis. But, while emphasizing bad news can sometimes get people to stop doing bad things, it’s usually temporarily. Most often, it inspires them to hide their sins, not stop them.
Good News Builds a Great Church
But even if they do stop those behaviors, that makes no eternal difference. There’s no salvation in not sinning.
While salvation will change a person’s behavior, changing behavior can’t give them salvation. That’s the opposite of what we should be doing.
Moral behavior without life transformation merely convinces people they’re in right relationship with God, even if they’re not. The Pharisees were great at that and they were Jesus’ biggest enemies.
I’d rather have religious people get mad at me and my church for loving sinners too much than to be accepted by a holy huddle of self-righteous churchgoers who agree on the sins we’re against.
People find salvation by turning towards Jesus. Even when we’re sinners. Especially when we’re sinners.
Point them to Jesus.
(Photo by Siaron James | Flickr)