This past Sunday I made a stop at Target on my way home from church. The cashier who rang up my purchases noticed my more formal attire and correctly assumed that I had just come from a church service. She then began to tell me about all these funny signs she had seen outside of churches around the area. You know the ones, with the removable letters that you can arrange to make some witty, funny comment that might draw people into your church building on a Sunday.
It seems that was all this young woman at Target knew about church: the funny signs. Is this how church should be known?
These signs may seem funny (or maybe they're not your style of humor), but they are making light of some very serious issues. I'm afraid that many of the churches that have these signs are sharing a watered-down, light Gospel along with their quaint little quips on the sign out front. This is almost always done under the guise of bringing more people in to church, but I have a couple of questions. Just how many people are drawn into your church because of that sign? And how many people who do come in actually get saved as a result?
They way we portray the Gospel starts at the very first interaction. Whether you're at work talking with a coworker, or you belong to a church that uses one of these signs, that first impression is the guideline for the rest of your interaction with a person. If you start out with a light little joke, most likely the conversation won't go much past that. You can't effectively flip the script to anything more serious. However, if you show yourself to be a committed Christian from the start, then you probably have a better chance of having a deeper conversation with someone who is not a believer. Unfortunately, most of American church culture doesn't view it this way. Thanks to the invention of the "seeker-sensitive" church, congregations all over the country propound a weak "gospel" that only seeks to keep secular people inside the doors. There is no focus on biblical truth, only on what the people want to hear.
This is not what the Church is about! There is no growth when no one mentions the uncomfortable things. I'm sure the Corinthian church didn't want to hear about the sin that was present within their congregation, yet Paul wrote to them and visited them multiple times in order to address that very subject. A spiritual life without conviction of sin has no conviction at all.
The American church has borrowed too much from American culture, that now it is hard to see a way out. We have become so self-indulgent, creating a "faith" that is comfortable for us. How does that glorify the Lord we claim to serve? God often calls us to difficult, uncomfortable things in order to draw us closer to Himself. We lose so much within our "personal" walk with Christ when we care more about our personal desires than about Christ's commands.
What kind of message are we trying to send to the world? Where is the foundation for your faith? Are you in it for what you can get out of it, or are you intentionally seeking to serve the Lord?
This watered-down Gospel has created generations of Christians who have little knowledge of truth and Scripture. It's even gotten to the point where an ordained pastor has decided it's a good idea to live for one year as an atheist. My friends, the Lord is calling us to draw near to Him so that we may more effectively live for His glory. How can we do that when our time is primarily spent looking for what we think we need instead of asking God what He has for us?
King David, the man described as being "a man after God's own heart," knew a lot about living a life not focused on self. In one of his psalms, he writes, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). People have misquoted this verse to mean that God will give you what you want, when really God will give you new desires. You will desire to see people truly saved. You will desire to remain faithful to your wife and love her as Christ loved the church. You will desire to see God's name lifted high by remaining faithful to His commands. Verse 3 of Psalm 37 sets this up well: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness." There is an alternate translation in the ESV that reads "and feed on faithfulness." As you feed on faithfulness, making it an integral part of your life, then you will see your desires change.
This is a plea to the American church. Put down your silly signs and your lighthearted jokes. Take careful consideration of what you are doing and how it is spreading the Gospel of Christ. Are you promoting a true salvation, or are you merely bringing people in to tickle their ears? Pray, wholeheartedly, for a desire to remain faithful and to delight in the Lord above all. A gospel that is more focused on man is not a true gospel. Let the truth ring out in our country in a way that it never has before.
A simple servant of the Master.