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. And in my experience, Small Churches are especially susceptible to this way of thinking. Too many of us beat people up when they come to church, then take the moral high ground, claiming “that’s why our church is small! No one wants to hear the truth anymore!”
No, that’s not what makes most Small Churches small. There are plenty of Small Churches that also happen to be great churches. And there are plenty of big churches that spend a lot of time ranting against sins, too – both real and imagined.
But 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.
This article was originally posted on June 2, 2014. It wasn’t one of the most-read posts of the year, but I think it’s worth a second (or first) look as one of the overlooked #BestOf2014.
Not Sinning Never Saved Anyone
Think of it this way.
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 on the back of yelling about the sin-of-the-week. Or even the sins-of-eternity.
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
Before you get all defensive, I’m not saying that 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 because the doctor doesn’t want the patient to feel bad. The doctor has a moral obligation to break bad news to the patient – especially when the doctor has access to the cure!
In the same way, being a church that emphasizes the good news doesn’t mean we ignore bad news.
Sin is real and hell is hot. That’s the bad news.
Great churches aren’t built by ignoring those truths any more than a good doctor ignores a bad diagnosis.
But a good doctor doesn’t keep yelling “you’re gonna die!” after the patient has been diagnosed. A good doctor breaks the bad news, then emphasizes and applies the life-giving properties of the cure.
“But what if the patient ignores the negative diagnosis and refuses to take the cure?” you may be wondering.
Even then, a good doctor will not keep yelling “you’re gonna die!” Why? Because a good doctor knows that a patient may take one pill to stop the doctor from yelling, but only a belief in the value of the cure will get them to take the pill at home.
Emphasizing bad news can sometimes get people to stop doing bad things – but only temporarily. Most of the time, it just inspires them to hide their sins, not stop them. But either way, there’s no salvation in it.
To use my previous illustration about convincing people sin is bad, a doctor can convince a patient they have a disease, they can even convince a patient to stop engaging in the behavior that caused the disease. But unless the patient takes the cure, they’re still going to die.
Good News Builds a Great Church
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 churches that agree on the sins we’re against.
There’s so salvation in not sinning. All that will do is convince 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.
People find salvation by turning towards Jesus. Even when we’re sinners. Especially when we’re sinners.
Remember, that’s what they called Jesus. Friend of sinners.
Now that’s good news. And that will build a great church.
So what do you think? Have you and your church spent too much time emphasizing what you’re against?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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