Last night my wife and I were having a conversation regarding the direction many churches seem to be going in these last days, and from that conversation an analogy, a word picture of sorts, came to mind that I wanted to share with you.
A few weeks ago, the local community had their annual city cruise event, an event that has gone on for decades. At this event, car enthusiasts with their friends and families will come from all over the region to show off their cars in car shows, and in the evening join in on a cruise down the biggest and longest street in town. This event brings in not only car enthusiasts, but also venders and other groups that seek to take advantage of the different opportunities it presents. This year was no different than the previous years, but this time the River Medical Center, a large local hospital, decided to be a part of the festivities.
The River Medical Center, also known as RMC, was looking for new ways to make themselves known to the community. In a city with four large hospitals, it was important to the administration to get their name out there and to let the community know they were there for them. It was for these reasons that the RMC administration decided to participate in this year’s annual city cruise event.
In their planning, the RMC administration decided not to say or do anything at the event relating to the medicine and procedures at their disposal, or even of the various health issues they dealt with. To avoid offending anyone, especially the other local hospitals, or to appear that they were only interested in a particular segment of the community, all they wanted to do was to make themselves known to the community, and that everyone was welcomed to come visit them. So, it was decided that they would set up the biggest tent they could, have as many of the medical staff on hand helping, music classics of the 1940’s and 1950’s associated with cars and cruising being played, and would hand out hundreds of hats and t-shirts with their name on it. They even had on display classic cars some of their staff owned; a 1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, and a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, among others.
Their plans were a great success. They saw a great response from those attending the event, and all that they were able to hand out reflected the amount of people they were able to attract. They were also very successful in not mentioning any of the medicine and procedures they have at their disposal, or even of the various health issues they are equipped to handle, keeping conversations focused around cars and activities, friends and family, as well as around memories of past cruises. At the end of the night, all the people knew was that RMC was another hospital in town, and that they loved cars and cruising just as much as they do.
Over the days and weeks that followed this year’s event, RMC experienced a significant increase of those visiting the hospital, and talk spread fast throughout the community about RMC and the great presence they had at the event. Seeing and hearing the great response they were getting from their participation in this year’s annual cruise event, the RMC administration was riding an emotional high and looking forward to the next big event they could participate in. They were growing, and they wanted to grow even more.
When people would visit the RMC, the staff was quick to make the person feel welcomed and to give them a tour of the place. In the tour, people would see the various rooms and offices of the place, some of the equipment they had there, as well as the cafeteria and gift store they had on the premises. Those who felt welcomed and comfortable there and really liked what they saw, they were quickly encouraged to become a part in telling others about RMC and helping however they could, including in the area of finances.
The River Medical Center was doing great. They were experiencing a greater presence and reputation in the community, more people were coming to visit them, more people were helping them do various things, and the finances were really beginning to roll in. Despite all the growth, there was a problem, a pretty significant problem at that. Amid all this growth and attention RMC was experiencing, only a very small portion was actually seeking and receiving medical attention and healing. On the other hand, some were only told how to change thoughts and behaviors dealing with symptoms they were experiencing without really dealing with core issues and taking the appropriate steps to deal with them. And there were still some who thought that since they were visiting the RMC and helping where they could, they had no need for the medical services of the hospital not realizing they had serious health issues that needed to be dealt with. In essence, from the tour and their willingness to help, they got just enough of what was available to them that they thought they had no need of anything else, a vaccine of sorts.
What I just described is a picture of what many churches are becoming. In their quest to grow and become a light to their community, many will avoid saying or doing anything that might offend someone or hurt their churches potential growth. Often times this includes not addressing sin on any level, except to say it’s a sin to not be helping, doing or loving others. There is very little to nothing said of each person being born dead in sin, and that it is only through Jesus and ones surrender to Him, that one can become alive and be free of sin and the penalty of sin. Nothing is really said of what sin is, or why and how Jesus is the only one who can save us from it, much less anything pertaining to the necessity of the cross and what that represents to followers of Christ. And, there is even less said of how Christians need to live free of sin and our need to maintain an attitude of repentance to Jesus for any sin in our life as we endeavor to live for Him. While it is true that we need to hear preaching and teaching on God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness, it is also true that we need to equally hear of sin, holiness, and God’s judgment upon unrepented sin for both the believer and the unbeliever. If we don’t hear preaching and teaching on all of this, as well as Bible prophecy for the days we live in and which are ahead, then we are not getting the full counsel of God. In fact, to leave any of that out compromises what the gospel of Jesus, or the good news of Jesus, is all about, leaving us with a watered-down and sugar-coated gospel that is grossly incomplete and misleading. The sickness every single person deals with is called sin, the core issue and cause of man’s moral and spiritual condition, and unless sin is properly and completely dealt with in a person’s life, that person cannot experience the healing and deliverance God makes available to each of us through Jesus. To leave sin out of our teaching and preaching is to do nothing more than teach others how to deal with or hide the symptoms of sin in their lives. Just as the hospital in the picture I presented isn’t really operating as a hospital, in the same way many churches are not truly operating as church. Perhaps this is a part of the deception Jesus and the Apostles spoke of that would be present within the church in the last days?
So, let us be messengers of the full gospel or good news of Jesus, sharing with others as God gives us opportunity to do so. Let it never be said of us that we never told people all they needed to know to live as true disciples of Christ.