Christians get a bad rap sometimes. The sad thing is, we deserve a lot of it. Few things are worse than a church that stinks in the community. Here are five things that your church should avoid—things that can cloud God’s glory, and bring disrepute to Christ’s name.
Five Ways to Stink In Your Community
- “Reach out,” kind of like of like a boxer with a left hook. Does your church try to “reach out?” Christians are commanded to make disciples and proclaim the message of the gospel. In so doing, there should not be anything intentionally pugnacious in the way we do so. When the Bible describes Christians as “soldiers” (e.g., 2 Timothy 2:3), it does not mean that we must attack other people (c.f. Titus 3:2). So, if you want to stink in your community, go ahead and “reach out,” kind of like a boxer reaches out with a left hook at his opponent’s jaw. Confrontations such as “You’re going to hell if you don’t repent right now!” or “God hates [fill in the blank]” are not in keeping with Christian behavior. Employ love—love for other believers and love for nonbelievers—in all your behavior, even in your evangelism (John 13:35).
- Be Less Helpful than Meals on Wheels or Alcoholics Anonymous. Doing good to other people is part of common grace—a sign that even depraved man is made in God’s image. When Christians (of all people), refuse to practice charity, humanitarian aid, justice, or generosity, they are being antiChristian. That stinks. People notice; God’s name is mocked. “But” you may object, “Christians aren’t commanded to be humanitarians!” Actually, yes, Christians are in fact commanded to be humanitarians. (See Psalm 82:3; Prov. 19:17; Matthew 25:40; Luke 3:11; Luke 12:33; 1 Timothy 6:18; James 1:27; James 2:14-20; 1 John 3:17-19). Christians ought to do even better; we are to help meet people’s need and give the gospel—the only truth that can change hearts and eternal destinies. Feed the hungry. Help single mothers. Care for orphans. Protect the abused. Preach the gospel. When you think about your church’s role in your community, think about what Jesus did, what God commanded, and what Christians are expected to do: help others.
- Try to grow your church as big as possible. Nonbelievers sometimes view Christians as kingdom-builders, but not necessarily God’s Kingdom builders. Instead, they view Christians as people trying to grow their own private little empires—complete with bigger buildings, better equipment, larger parking lots, finer amenities, more programs, and more giving. There is nothing inherently wrong with large churches, insofar that getting bigger numbers is not the wholehearted pursuit of the church. Often, people in the community will see this attempt for what it truly is—pride and greed. If God grows your church, amen. If you’re the one trying to boost attendance, it probably stinks.
- Form a church where everyone is the same. This country (U.S.A.) hasn’t gotten over racial prejudice. Even though we have made great strides toward greater equality, the roots of prejudice run deep in the hearts of some people. There are few things as antithetical to the gospel as the supposed superiority of one type of person over another (1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). When we build churches that are intentionally comprised of just one socioeconomic group, we are implicitly preaching a false gospel. When we make visitors of another color feel uncomfortable, we are preaching a false gospel. When we pretend that our denominational strain, musical preference, or dress standard is superior in some way, we are living out a religiosity that appears nowhere within the pages of the Bible. We live in a diverse country, and a diverse world. Biblical Christianity embraces this diversity and celebrates it. Even your community is diverse. If you want to stink in your community, resist the diversity and form a little club where everyone is just like you.
- Sin in a big way. A few years ago, I was visiting people in my neighborhood inviting them to a children’s event (VBS) when I was rudely awakened to a sad reality. One young father was extremely angered by my inviting his children to VBS. “You invite kids to your church, and then your pastor is gonna molest them! You’re nothing but a bunch of perverts!” Later, I learned the story. A local church just a few blocks away from his house, was harboring a child molesting pastor. How tragic. Despite the man’s unjustified accusations of other churches, there is a lesson to learn. When Christians, especially Christian leaders, sin in a big way, they malign Christ’s testimony. God’s grace reaches past our faults, even our biggest sins, but we must take heed lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). A sinning Christian leader makes a big stink.
So, is the gospel offensive?
Only insofar as it confronts people’s supposed “goodness” with the absolute inability to save themselves (Romans 9:33; Galatians 5:11; 1 Peter 2:8). Jesus alone saves. Christians, followers of Jesus, are to avoid offense (Acts 25:8; 1 Corinthians 10:32). Our lives are to be characterized by love, kindness, and generosity. It is not necessary to stink in your community. In fact, it is wrong to do so. Follow Christ’s example, and be faithful to the gospel.