Great Expectations of the Church

Show Me Your God
I work with teenagers who have a substance abuse problem. At least one of my clients is clearly not a Christian and I want to share something he shared with me. First, let me just say that I love this kid. I’ll call him Brian. He is smart, talented and vocal. He actually values my counseling and I love having him as a part of my group.

On more than one occasion, Brian has made clear that he is not a religious person, does not believe in Jesus Christ and thinks that all religion is basically the same nonsense man made up to make themselves feel better. His mantra is, “Show me your god and I’ll believe in him.” So he surprised me one day when he mentioned that he occasionally attends a local evangelical church, one I’m familiar with. I said, “You go to church? I thought you don’t like Christianity.” He replied, “Yeah I go to church sometimes. They have good messages.”

It’s Pretty Exclusive
Good messages? What’s going on at this church? How can someone who practically hates Christianity enjoy the teachings of this church?

I ask these questions only because I view Christianity as quite exclusive. Only those who believe are part of it. Only those who believe will like it.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but
to us who are being saved it is the power of God. -1 Corinthians 1:18

The bible teaches that the gospel is offensive to those who don’t believe. That makes sense. The gospel teaches God created you, that you are inherently a sinner deserving of God’s wrath and that you can’t help yourself. Your only hope is in Jesus and you won’t change without the Holy Spirit. You see how if you don’t believe in God or the Christ, the gospel message can be quite offensive. On the other hand, if you believe all this, it’s very powerful to you. Either way, the gospel is at the center of Christianity.

Go Big or Go Home
The gospel is supposed to be the message of all Christian churches. I just attended a 9Marks conference this weekend designed to equip church leaders to build healthy churches. One of the speakers, Jamie Owens, expressed that visitors to your church should leave a Sunday service with a complete understanding of the gospel. It should have been presented clearly in the service. It should be so clear, that people are either being converted or running out the nearest exit! I wholeheartedly agree. If you don’t present the gospel clearly and regularly, church members and visitors will not be spiritually healthy and Christianity may be alarmingly misrepresented.

Again, what’s happening at the church Brian goes to? I know he doesn’t like Christianity. I know he rejects that the God of the bible is real. I also know he likes to go to this one church and thinks the messages are good. Something is not adding up here.

My only conclusion can be this: so far, the church he is going to is not clearly teaching the gospel. So far, this church Brian goes to is not helping him understand Christianity. Somehow this church appeals to the God-less worldview he has. My only hope is that when he finally understands the gospel and learns what true Christianity is, it will make sense to him, it will be powerful to him and he will believe it and trust in Christ.

Some Will Turn Away
In John 6, Jesus teaches that he is the bread of life and we are to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. His disciples respond negatively to this difficult teaching.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.John 6:60-66

Jesus teaching offensive material to his followers was normative for him but it was only offensive because they did not believe. In the church today, my expectation is this: if you do not believe in the God of the bible and a church teaches the gospel of the bible, you will not be comfortable there. If the Holy Spirit is not working in you, you will probably leave. You may like the music, the people, the air conditioning and the padded seats but you will not like the message of the church. I pray churches will start to meet this simple expectation because it’s not a bad thing when a non-believer leaves the church. However it’s just the greatest thing when a non-believer becomes a believer because the gospel is preached. It’s the greatest thing when a person, moved by the Holy Spirit, opens their heart to the grace of God.

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