Last weekend we took three guests to church with us for a Christmas celebration our church was having. I was so excited to have three people I have been praying for come to church. I expected a sermon about how great God is, and how wonderfully he blesses his children. Instead the sermon was about how short men fall of God’s standards, why we need a savior, and the reality of hell whether we choose to believe it or not. I was disappointed and concerned that our guests would be offended. I was surprised to hear such a “negative” message for a Christmas service.
You don’t expect the basic message of salvation to be the one that challenges you after 31 years of church. I had to wonder why I was was offended, or concerned about them hearing this message. Every word the preacher spoke was true and based on scripture. I realize what I have come to expect in church is a message that encourages believers, and woos the unbelievers into a relationship with God. The Bible is very encouraging for believers, but I forget that it is very discouraging for those who aren’t. Because the truth is that God is good and loving, but he is also holy and just. We all need a savior. The greatest lie the enemy has is that we don’t.
This weekend we took eight guests to our old church for an awesome Christmas production. It was a wonderful display to believers of what awesome things people can accomplish when they use their talents to worship God. But the message was very brief, and basically an invitation to come back to church. I was wanting so much more for these people who are so resistant to anything church related. I have been praying for them for years and they finally came. It was a rare opportunity. I wanted them to hear the truth.
Guess which friends are coming back to church with us? The ones who heard the message of salvation. And I am so excited to get to watch them come to know him and learn about his goodness.
I don’t want to judge by any means, because believers don’t need to hear a message about hell every week. But the fact is there is world of unbelievers who do need to hear this message at least one week.
I have learned much from these experiences. First, I realized that I have been deceived into believing the best way to win people to God is by only focusing on his goodness. People need to hear the truth. The truth is often offensive, but it always sets us free. Second, it is impossible for preachers to please people so they might as well just worry about pleasing God.
Thank you God for putting me in a church where the pastor is not afraid to stand up and speak the truth in a culture whose definition of truth is a lie. Thank you for the way he challenges me to grow in faith, and believes that you still work miracles. Thank you that churches like this do still exist and we are going to impact this generation of deceived people, believers and unbelievers alike.