Illusions performed by magicians can be quite impressive, capturing the attention of fans and critics alike. For fans, fueled by their amazement of what just happened, they are mesmerized into trying to figure out how the illusion was done. For critics, they are intrigued with how the magician could capture the attention of those watching by their trickery and deceptions. The world around us is filled with many illusions, where people are working to convince others to believe what they want them to, even when they know it’s not true and will lead them astray.
When we talk of illusions, there is one that I want to address that can be found within church circles. There are many illusions within church circles, each one bringing some damage to the body of Christ, both small and great. The illusion I’m referring to in this blog is centered around the idea that churches must make certain changes to be relevant to people and those who are unchurched. Let me explain.
Over 20 years ago a particular teaching became very popular, acting as a guide of sorts to help churches grow and reach out to their communities. I understand that churches need to adapt in some respects as culture and societies change, making better use of current technology and social media for example. However, the teaching I’m referring to went beyond that, telling churches that they needed to focus on the love of Christ, building the self-esteem of those lacking good self-esteem, and doing good deeds through community involvement. Yes, each of those things are good, I do agree. But at the same time churches were, and still are, encouraged to say very little if anything about sin and repentance, the shed blood of Jesus and our need for it to wash away our sin, about a coming judgment and an eternity in hell for those rejecting Jesus and the full Gospel message. Churches were also encouraged to remove crosses or any other traditional displays, inside or outside the church, that would identify them as a church, looking to be ‘seeker sensitive’ to those who are opposed to churches for any number of different reasons. In essence, churches were encouraged to remove from their premises and from their teachings anything that would offend people and keep them from coming to their church.
What I just described is very disheartening. It’s like a hospital that has all the resources needed to help cure a person from a devastating disease like cancer, only to remove the cure and any mention of it from their premises because of those who would be offended by the cure and what it would cost them, but they still want them to feel good and welcomed to come visit anytime they desire. It is true that many of the churches I described have significantly grown numerically speaking, but a question comes to mind. Regarding the large numbers attending these churches, the question is asked, how many of them really understand salvation, their need for it, and the cost of following Jesus? Or are they merely attending a church that makes them feel good without addressing sin, the need for repentance, and submission to Jesus as their Lord?
While churches have done what they could to make people feel welcomed to be there, have they at the same time compromised the crux and beauty of the gospel message to facilitate their objective to draw people to them? The gospel message has remained the same for over 2000 years, and to change or water it down for the purpose of growing the church numerically is not a God thing. In the New Testament, the church didn’t grow exponentially because they changed the message to be more appealing to the masses. Instead, it grew amid extreme persecution because the full gospel message centered on the fact that we are all born sinners and in need of a savior, that it is through Jesus alone, and the blood He shed on a cross for us, that we can have salvation. It is then that the conviction of the Holy Spirit drew people to Jesus for salvation. Well, the illusion doesn’t end there.
Last year my eyes were opened to something that shows how much this illusion has infiltrated and infected some churches. It is no secret that I am not a fan of Halloween, knowing that everything about it and what it represents is in direct opposition to the God I serve. Often people will ask me what I’m doing for Halloween, and I simply tell them I don’t acknowledge it because it’s a conflict of interest for me as a Christian. I am not opposed to a church doing something on that day as an outreach for the community, but if what they are doing resembles Halloween in any way, in appearance or behavior, then I have an issue with that. In our community, many churches have what is called, Trunk or Treat, and last year something was brought to my attention that showed how much some churches have fallen as representatives of Christ to their community. For obvious reasons, I have not attended one of these events, but last year someone at one of these churches mentioned jack-o-lanterns they had made for the event and it got me to thinking about something. Thinking about it, I made a point in taking a drive Halloween night past some of the churches having such an event, and what I found was very sad. Of the churches I drove past that hosted a Trunk or Treat event that night, I noticed that while many of them thought it was okay to have both the appearance and behavior of Halloween and all that it represents present, some of them had literally no crosses or other displays outside that identified them as a Christian church. How is it that they have nothing to identify themselves as a Christian church, yet they feel perfectly fine to welcome and allow that which is directly opposed to Christ? Have they bought into the illusion that they can’t have anything displayed that might offend or keep people away just to increase their attendance? Have they become more concerned about offending people with the simple truth of the gospel, than they are in offending the One who gave His life for them to have salvation? Have they forgotten that they are ambassadors of Christ? Yes, Jesus reached out to and spent time with sinners, but He didn’t compromise the gospel message or participate in anything that was diametrically opposed to Him or the Father.
And in case I haven’t made it clear, everything about Halloween is diametrically and aggressively opposed to God and the gospel message found in Jesus. Are you afraid of taking a stand for Christ in your everyday life, pointing people to the saving message we find at the cross of Jesus? If you are afraid of that, are you also okay with allowing people to think that you are okay with those things that are in clear opposition to and in conflict with the very heart and nature of Christ? Who or what are you living for, Christ or the opinions and feelings of others? Let it be for Christ from here on out!