In my prayer group, there is someone who says the key to growth in our church is to make it more inviting to people. That is his prayer. I run into a choir member who reports to me that our music is going to change and it is slowly going to be more “praise and worship” music so more people will want to come to church. I hear of a church in our community that dismissed the pastor because he preached too many messages that offended church-goers; the sermons were not very “encouraging.”
What does a church have to do to survive?
I guess a church needs to be upbeat with worship and for goodness sakes, avoid any sermon that is negative. Don’t condemn today’s behavior.
You know what would happen if behavior was condemned?
That would drive people away; they would feel so chastened that they would be uncomfortable.
Pastor John Bevere starts out Chapter 11 in his book Good or God? with a story about a pastor who addressed his church in this manner: “What I’m about to say may be a little negative. I usually don’t speak this way because I don’t convict people with my messages. I leave conviction to the Holy Spirit” . Bevere struggles with the approach this pastor takes. It makes sense because the Holy Spirit does convict but aren’t pastors supposed to show people that the way they live their lives is wrong?
In Chapter 11, Bevere calls out his own vocational group. He cites a pastor and his wife who were interviewed on a news program. The interviewer brought up the topic of sexual immorality and the pastor’s response was “It is not my place to tell anyone how to live.” Bevere got an invitation to preach at another church but as a condition of his preaching, the pastor said “this church only wants to hear good news, speak nothing negative.” In the interest of getting people into the church door, are pastors preaching about good and ignoring God?
Here is my admission. I am not perfect. I also don’t know it all. I need help in order to live a better life and part of that help may be a pastor correcting me, telling me I am going the wrong way. My Bible tells me that telling church members their behavior is wrong is part of a pastor’s job.
Second Timothy says as much: “preach the word [as an official messenger]; be ready when the time is right and even when it is not [keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favorable or unfavorable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome]; correct [those who err in doctrine or behavior], warn [those who sin], exhort and encourage [those who are growing toward spiritual maturity], with inexhaustible patience and [faithful] teaching” [from the Amplified Bible].
Yes, sometimes we respond to messages from pastors that say we need to correct ourselves. We need to change and we do.
However, sometimes the attitude is that once we are saved it is ok. We don’t need to hear any negative stuff from that point on. We have made our commitment to Christ and that means our future sins are covered by grace. Maybe we have the attitude of Felix and his wife Drusilla. Paul was preaching to them about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. Drusilla was a Jew. In The Message, the event was characterized in this manner: “Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and His people about a life of moral discipline and the coming Judgement, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort and dismissed Paul. “That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it is convenient” [Acts 24: 24-25]. When we are confronted with correction, it is very inconvenient. It can be downright uncomfortable. Bevere says “There are some church leaders whose primary goal is to get seekers back to the next Sunday’s service.” Paul was not sugar-coating his message. He was speaking truth.
Bevere is not advocating that church be a place where 100% of the worship experience should be negative. He is not advocating that church be a place where 100% of the worship experience be positive. He is advocating for a balance.
Today’s church may be “out of balance” when it comes to helping people grow in their Christian lives. First Corinthians 10:23 says “I am allowed to do anything” but we know that not everything is beneficial for our lives. Maybe all of us need to admit our need for correction. The big question that I would pose is this: would you rather be corrected by a pastor who has concern for your life in Christ or would you rather continue your ways and either be stuck in your growth as a Christian or continue in a lifestyle that is not appropriate for our faith?
Seems to be a “no-brainer” to me…