How To Tell If A church Is Lost
Recently, I was looking at an offshore church web site, and I read the following:
We believe we are called to
Reveal the glory of God’s Kingdom
This vision is based on a conviction that God’s purpose, in and through Jesus, is to restore His entire creation to its original glorious perfection, where His reign is universally accepted and acknowledged. The mission of His people is to demonstrate here and now what that looks like helping others see and experience and marvel at what God’s reign, God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, is like.
Expressed more fully
Our vision is to reveal the Kingdom of God on earth – to be a safe “sanctuary”, welcoming all people, and providing nurture and training, so that we are becoming courageous people who are making a Kingdom difference in our homes and neighbourhoods, in schools, universities, workplaces, businesses, clubs, community organisations, local and national government, and at the margins of society bringing the transforming blessing, beauty and life of the Kingdom of God to these settings.
Believe it or not, this kind of “vision” is appearing increasingly frequently on church web sites in New Zealand.
I have enormous problems with it.
First up, can anyone please tell me what any of this vision actually means? What would all this actually look like? I read this vision over and over and each time I became more perplexed and asked more questions. For example:
- Can secular sports clubs, pubs and associations provide all that is promised here – training, a haven, a sanctuary etc? Answer: yes. Non-Christians go to these places / join these clubs for these reasons. They are a safe place. They are havens. What’s more, they are a lot of fun. I come from a non-Christain background. I was saved at 22. Prior to my conversion I would go to the pub, have a few drinks, get ‘oiled’ and start sharing my deepest thoughts and feelings with others. We laughed, we were transparent, we were brutally honest, and there was an atmosphere of acceptance and love, even if all of this was stimulated by the effects of alcohol. My point is this – what this church wants to provide for people is already being provided by many non-Christians. One doesn’t need to be a christian to provide training, a haven, a sanctuary etc.
- What does “The mission of His people is to demonstrate here and now what that looks like helping others” mean? Again, many non-Christians actually outshine Christians when it comes to kindness, love, and good works. Again, one doesn’t need God in the mix to demonstrate all this. There are literally thousands of secular organisations which are going about doing good. So what makes the good these organisations are doing any different from the good this church wants it’s people to demonstrate? I could see no difference at all.
- This church wants to demonstrate the Kingdom of God. What does the Kingdom of God look like? William Barclay would say that anywhere God’s will is being done and God is being glorified, here the Kingdom is. The key to this is the glory of God. When non-Christians do good, no glory is going to God because their motivation is not so. When Christians do good, our prayer is that those watching or on the other end of the good work connect the goodness not with us, but with Jesus Christ, otherwise we get the glory. Where in this church vision is there any mention of wanting to glorify Jesus Christ? Any church vision statement which doesn’t say ‘We exist to glorify Jesus Christ’ is missing the mark. Furthermore, it’s a great mistake to think we can glorify Jesus without saying anything. For example, if such a such a church does good works, and doesn’t use words to connect the good works to Jesus Christ, those looking on might think we are good atheists, buddhists, hindus or whatever. The greatest and surest way of connecting our good works with Jesus Christ is to proclaim the gospel as we go. This has always been what God intended to happen. Research shows 98% of the modern church has dropped the words. Hence, non-christians see us as just a bunch of do gooders on a par with any other secular do good organisation. Then they reason ‘if being a Christian is just about doing good, I must already be one because I am doing lots of good to people all the time.’ It’s easy to see how disasterous it is to disconnect gospel proclamation from good works.
- This leads to other crucial questions. Where is the Cross in this church vision? Why did Jesus die on the cross? The answer? It was to make a way for human beings to be reconciled to God, not for the physical world to be redeemed. Greenpeace and a myriad of other secular organisations are trying to preserve the earth, and we applaud this. But to bring the earth back to it’s to “its original glorious perfection?” Really? Does this mean “back to the garden of Eden pre-fall?” You mean no more pests, thorns, diseases, pain in child birth etc – all the curses of the fall reversed? Impossible outside of the Second Coming of Christ and the new earth. Conclusion? This church vision statement is at this point giving people a vision for the sheer impossible, the ridiculous. What’s the point of that?
- What on earth is the church doing trying to compete with people like Greenpeace? Why are we drifting from the one thing that the church was commissioned and commanded to do that NO ONE ELSE does? Our core business ought to focus upon only what we can do, surely? And what is this? It’s the evangelisation of the world i.e. making sure every person on the earth hears the gospel message clearly and it’s delivered with love and grace. John 3:16 summarises the gospel message beautifully. Here’s the point – we in the church can do all the good in the world and demonstrate this that and the other thing and in the end the people looking on will be cast into hell at the end of life if they are not reconciled to God. Or is this church who wrote the vision statement thinking that if they can be incredibly nice people, abounding in good works, non-Christians will become so interested they will want to reconcile to God? Is this what is meant by “where His reign is universally accepted and acknowledged?”. There is no record of the 5000 giving their lives to Christ after that miracle. By contrast 3000 were saved when Peter preached the gospel in Acts 2. What’s the point? Unless people are confronted with their sin through the power of the Holy Spirit they will never desire God. God works through the gospel message (Romans 1:16) to do this. Conclusion? This church vision statement is unwittingly leading people AWAY from the Great Commission. This is a serious charge, given that the whole crux of the Christian life is ultimately about obedience to this commission.
- What does “Reveal the glory of God’s Kingdom” actually mean? Where will it be revealed? What would it look like? What would be the point of this revelation? Does it mean that the Christians from this church will glow when they walk down the street? That the church will be glowing as people drive by? Or does it mean that when people go to a church service in this church they will experience the presence and power of God? I can see the latter happening, but how are we going to get all the non-Christians into the church service in the first place? And even if they do make it to church, what’s the point of the experience? Is it not to lead to the cross, and then to personal salvation? Where is ‘the point’ mentioned in the vision of this church? You’d have to conclude there is not one.
- Finally, I agree that we need to demonstrate the love and compassion of God, look after the earth, provide havens, sanctuaries etc etc. But biblically, these are peripheral. They are not the main thing. They miss the central point of the mission of Christianity – the bull’s eye. Jesus came to earth to reconcile man to God - to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). And the chief instrument given to the church to do this is the gospel message. The mission of the Church therefore is to evangelise the world. No one else on the face of the earth can do this work or has the remotest desire to. To the lost this work is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Having said all this, we dare not minimise the place of good works, social action, and being people who carry the presence of God. These things are absolutely vital in the process of drawing non-Christians to God. To watch a short video about this process, please click here.
My final questions to you are these – are the people who wrote the vision statement of this church themselves lost? Is this a case of the blind leading the blind? When the message of the cross and reconciling men to God becomes foolishness to people inside Church (and by the absence of any mention of this in their vision statement, surely this is what is being conveyed), what does this say about the people who formulated it? You know the answer…(hence the title of this blog)
I truly feel sorry for the people in this church which has this vision statement. They are working, tithing, giving, serving etc – and all for what? To chase a rainbow? The vision statement is loaded with ideas, phrases and concepts which are hard to imagine, let alone justify biblically. As such, it is fuzzy and vague in the extreme. In fact, this vision statement is SO fuzzy, it’s virtually meaningless.The final vision Jesus gave His disciples was, by contrast, so clear – since called the Great Commission.
P.S If the cornerstone of the vision of this church is to demonstrate “God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven” then what’s the will of God? Answer: It’s His commands, as found in the bible. Can these commands be placed in a hierarchy? Answer: Yes. What’s the priority? Answer: the evangelisation of the world. What does evangelisation mean? Answer: that every person on the face of the earth hears and understands a clear gospel message. Who says this is the priority? Answer: click here to find out.
P.P.S. Watchman Nee said this: ”Christ is the Son of God. He died to atone for men’s sin, and after three days rose again. This is the most important fact in the universe. I die believing in Christ.” –Watchman Nee, (note found under his pillow, in prison, at his death).
The further any church moves from the Cross, the deeper into the jungle of the lost it moves.