By Liz Kenoy
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, posted a blog about 5 Imminent Dangers in Churches. While some people obey danger signs, others choose to ignore them. Rainer shares a danger sign he once saw:
“It was presumably next to wires with high electrical voltage, and it profoundly read:
Danger — Do Not Touch
Not Only Will This Kill You,
It Will Hurt the Whole Time You Are Dying.”
That sign seems like it would be enough to deter the biggest danger junkie. But what about danger signs in our churches? As Rainer points out, these are not just signs for churches that have run off the doctrinal tracks—these are signs that solid biblically based churches need to pay attention to as well.
1. ”Doubts about the exclusivity of salvation through Christ.”
This one should certainly be ringing some alarm bells… The Bible is clear about the only way to eternal life:
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. –John 14:5-7a
Not only is Jesus the only way, He also came to fulfill all of the prophecies that were made about Him in the Old Testament. You can’t fully understand the Old Testament until you realize who it is pointing to (Jesus) and what it is pointing toward (redemption).
In addition, we have to understand why we need a Savior. Romans 3 tells us all have fallen short, no one is worthy. But God hasn’t left us to our own deserving demise; He sent His Son to conquer death and vanquish sin once and for all.
So if someone says there are other ways to God or to heaven, what they’re really saying is that a Savior is not necessary for everyone. But you cannot combine multiple worldviews because each worldview has it’s own set of beliefs that will clash when set up side by side. There will never be a Christianity that has a Savior route, a works route, and an idol-worshipping route. If it did, it would cease to be Christianity.
As Rainer states, there are few in evangelical churches who would blatantly deny the need for a Savior, but there are some “who are quietly rationalizing forms of pluralism or inclusivism.” And these quiet rationalizers have the potential to lead others in the church astray.
So while the gospel is inclusive in that it is open to everyone, it is exclusive in that Jesus is the only way…the only bridge across the chasm of sin to the Father in eternity. And no one is excused from their rejection of Him.
2. “Waning efforts at evangelism.”
If you think there is another way to be saved, then you probably won’t try as hard to evangelize. However, it seems in many churches today that there simply isn’t a burden among churchgoers for the lost that there once was. And we’re not just talking about the distant lost (strangers and people far away from us), we’re talking about unsaved family members and friends. Are we taking seriously the detriment to their soul if we don’t share with them?
Another reason for this waning is that churchgoers are disconnected from evangelistic approaches. This usually results in a lack of evangelism or the kind of evangelism that turns people away. Another possibility might be the growing climate of intolerance in the culture; your church members may either be intimidated to share or frustrated with the people they would be sharing with. If we feel intimidated to share, then it’s likely that we fear an angry response or a broken relationship as a result. And if we’re frustrated, then we may be tempted to think the person doesn’t need to hear the gospel—that they have already chosen their path. But both are wrong; we cannot let fear or frustration block us from sharing about Jesus.
Scripture makes it clear that all Christians are called to evangelize and spread the good news with people in their community and anywhere they travel.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8. Also: Matthew 9:37-38, 28:18-20; Romans 10:11-15; Philemon 1:6
Two other dangers are produced as a result of this waning evangelistic effort; the first is a tendency to ignore the community around our church. What this means as Rainer points out is that a church may choose to isolate itself and keep the gospel within its walls. Some churches may do this to protect themselves because they fear or are frustrated with the culture, others may do this with good intentions to focus their congregation on spiritual growth. But when we look at the life Jesus lived, we see how the balance of Christian living is supposed to look. Jesus spent time alone with God every day; He started His day with His Father. Then He taught others and shared the good news with them. He also spent time in small groups and had dinner with those who were different from Him. It is possible to grow spiritually without secluding yourself from the lost.
The other danger as a result of a waning evangelistic effort is laziness among church-givers. Rainer relays that a church may choose to raise funds for others to do the Great Commission and then think that their church no longer has to actively follow those instructions. Basically the church has hired laborers to go out into the harvest, so they can relax where they are.
3. “Making doctrine and works either/or.”
Here we have a scenario of a church either focusing too much or too little on something. When there is little focus on doctrine and too much focus on moral behavior and works, there will be a disconnect among church members from God’s Word as well as relevant theology. While too much of a focus on theology and doctrine can lead to a head full of knowledge and a life void of works. In the Bible, James makes it clear that faith without works is dead, and works without faith is simply that just a bunch of random good deeds that will make us feel good about ourselves.
Neither one is a good scenario, faith without works or works without faith; both are harmful to the church. Again there is a balance that needs to be achieved. You can’t have true good works for God’s glory without having faith first, and a faith lived out will include good works for God’s glory. Good works should be a response to faith—because we have faith, we do good works out of a transformed spirit for God’s glory. They are not to be done in order to earn salvation, nor are they to be done for our own glory.
“Though I cannot presume to know all the schemes of the Enemy, I can only imagine he loves to see churches succumbing to one or more of these dangers. These dangers are truly so great they will ultimately lead churches to dying and death.