Is “Church” A Barrier To The Gospel?
Allow me to encourage you with a story about a young man on the campus of the University of Kentucky who has jumped into “simple church.” He began with an announcement in his dorm that there would be a simple church meeting to discuss “church.” Much to the surprise of both of us, 15 people (mostly unbelievers) showed up. They committed to pair up, read the Bible, and return next week to discuss what they learned. Upon meeting with some of the “atheist” guys and discussing simple church, my new friend commented that the atheists told him that it was “really refreshing the way we talked about the Gospel.”
These events, and this comment in particular, make me think. Why would so many skeptics want to talk about “church” or even come to something announced as simple church? Even more, why would such a discussion lead to others being “refreshed” about the way the Gospel was presented? Here is my idea.
For a growing number in our society, receiving the Gospel as truly “good news” may be impossible because the Gospel is so closely identified with joining an institution or organization. Even if we don’t include this stipulation in our verbal presentation of the Gospel, for many, our lifestyle will communicate such a stipulation. Many well-meaning Christians often find their pleas with friends falling on skeptical ears. As long as we continue to present the legacy or traditional church as “what you do when you become a Christian,” our lost friends who have no interest in institutional church will hear our Gospel message as a bait and switch–accept this then we will get you to join our church!
Could it be that for many people to truly understand the goodness of the Gospel that we will first need to help them deconstruct “church” and demonstrate real church by our own lifestyle? Perhaps then our skeptical friends will see that to be a part of His Kingdom and His church is at the heart of the Gospel! A Gospel that proclaims Christ as Savior who delivers us from a life of destruction and Hell and adopts us into a spiritual family where we can belong and live out His purpose for our life!
For those of you who consider yourself a part of the simple church movement, be encouraged! I believe that, as many not-yet-Christians observe and experience your lifestyle and church experience, you will play a role in opening the door to the Kingdom for them.