When you read the title you might be thinking, aren’t Christians the church? Yes they are, but not all people in the church are Christians. Many think they are, but have been led wrong by bad teaching.
A young man from a church in Pennsylvania comes to mind when this topic comes around. We were visiting family there and sat in on a Sunday school class my aunt & uncle were teaching. I had met him earlier through his mother who is a retired Marine ( Marines always seem to find each other ). In this class the question came up of why do you come to church. His response was ” so I don’t go to hell “. His church experience led him to believe that coming to church made him a Christian and saved him from hell. He was in his early twenties and that was the last time we ever saw him. I hope there was follow up on the truth I shared that coming to church would not keep you out of hell, only following Jesus as your Lord and saviour and telling others will keep you out of hell. Telling others is confessing Him before men. Jesus said of you don’t confess me ( deny Him ) before men I’ll tell the Father I never knew you ( Luke 12:8-9 ).
There are others in the church that have been led to believe that simply asking Jesus into their hearts made them a Christian. At that point they could continue on with life uninterrupted and all is good. The shocking thing is the command to ask Jesus into your heart is nowhere in the Bible. I wrote a blog about misrepresenting Christianity that goes into this. It reminds me of A.W. Tozer saying ” If your Christian conversion did not reverse the direction of your life, if it did not transform it then you are not converted at all. You are simply a victim of the ” Accept Jesus ” heresy! “.
Now that that’s out-of-the-way let us get to the role the church is to play, the command we have been given. Make no mistake about it, we have been commanded by Jesus to do certain things, yet we are insistent on making excuses as to why we can’t or why this person or that is not qualified to do it.
The command is simple ” Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ” which is found in Mathew 28:19. The other is actually two in one, ” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself “. This can be found in Mathew 22:37-39.
To sum these up simply we are to spread the gospel all over the world, love God more than anything else therefor putting Him first and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. You don’t neglect yourself so you should not neglect your neighbor. You will go through great lengths to protect your life as you should your neighbor.
What the Bible does not say is to be the Holy Spirit for your neighbor or all the world. It does not say bring conviction on them for things in their life that you feel is not God honoring. It doesn’t say to try to change them or dictate their behavior. It tells us simply to love them and share the good news with them then baptize them.
If we teach the true spiritual truths to them, if we teach the Bible with accuracy, the Holy Spirit will bring life changing conviction on them. If we live our lives with holiness and live what we claim to believe that will bring validity to scripture and open the door for the Holy Spirit to work.
When we run around and try to correct them on habits, lifestyles, language, outlook on life, the way they dress, what they watch, the people they hang out with, the way they act at work, etc… we are making Christianity look like a kill joy that wants to just say no to everything and control you. If you don’t have an established relationship with them they will not be very receptive to your words. If you persist they will eventually stop coming to church and turn their back on Christianity. If the approach to salvation is ” accept Jesus ” they can walk away from church and scripture thinking they are good.
I can’t begin to tell you of the number of people I have met that will NOT go to church, yet say they are good with their maker. When I get to know them well enough to ask what they mean by good, are you saved? The response is, yea.. I asked Jesus in my heart. When I ask why they are not involved in their church they say they are judgemental hypocrites. Invariably the thinking that they are judgemental hypocrites came from people in the church trying to tell them how to live now that they were “saved” even when those lecturing were not living how they were lecturing. This violates the first rule of leadership, do NOT expect others to do what your are not willing to do.
We had a neighbor named Bobby. I’ll use his first name now that he has passed on and we have no earthly idea where his daughter is. When we first met Bobby it became apparent that he was addicted to alcohol and marijuana. He was a friendly, helpful, entertaining and honest neighbor despite his addictions and physical disabilities. He always looked out for the kids when they were outside. He always had a smile for us and would walk over to just visit. In turn my wife and daughter were always feeding him because they felt sorry for him. He was a skinny dude and would disappear at times for days and we would later find out he had been in the hospital for one reason or another. We frequently asked him to come to church with us and if he knew Jesus. He always said he didn’t want to go to church and he knew his maker and made peace with Him. One of the days when he was particularly drunk & stoned he admitted that he stopped going to church because the people always looked down on him and judged him. He went on to say that the people who said they cared for him at church never came to check on him or his daughter when she was in a bad car accident that put her in a coma and permanent disability. We asked him to let us know when he was in the hospital, but he never would because he knew the kids would want to come to see him. While we were in Texas he died and we don’t have a clue as to where his soul is going to spend eternity.
How many others are out there that the “church” has run off because they mistake their role to be that of the Holy Spirit and not the messenger of the good news? How do you interact with those who are not “churched” or different? Are you sharing the importance of making Jesus Lord & savior or just accepting Him and asking Him in your heart?