The Almost Church

Church

 

The “Almost Church” – Almost loves the gospel.  The “Almost Church” sings songs about the gospel, reads the Bible, loves Jesus, and genuinely desires to see the gospel advance.  But, at the “Almost Church”, the gospel becomes a “help” to the “Almost Christians” who are seeking to build the church. Friends, the gospel is not an additional “help” to building the church, it is the ONLY “hope” of building the church.

Consider:  If we are building the church on ANYTHING other than the gospel, what are we building it on? Sure, we can gather people around entertainment, music, social issues, or a pastors’ personality, but what is the hope in that?  What do we do when our entertainment is outmatched and our music is not performed as well as the world…. or, the pastor lacks that personality to draw in the crowds? Welcome to the performance treadmill found at the “Almost Church”. This is when the church hops on the performance treadmill in an attempt to keep up with culture. It is here that we “functionally” believe that performance, not gospel is what makes or breaks the church.

We buy the lie that these are the things that the church “needs” in order to be fruitful and relevant.  The performance treadmill wears down the church that can’t afford to pay for the superstar or the latest technology or…..

Should the church fold?  Throw in the towel?  Or limp along just wishing they could put forth a more polished, entertaining, performance….. service.

Imagine the apostle Paul saying:

I am not ashamed of the music / entertainment / pastor for it is the power of God unto salvation.

Oh my, writing those words leaves me empty of any and all hope. That of course is NOT what Paul said:  Let’s try that again,

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….

Romans 1:16

Christian, what gets you excited on Sunday morning? What motivates you during the week to honor God, pursue Godliness, or attend a Bible study? What lights your fire? Is it the gospel or is it something other? Are we hungry for the gospel itself, or lesser glories?  Don’t misunderstand, I love the lesser glories. I am grateful for excellent music, entertainment, and whatever level of personality God has given me as a pastor. But…. when we elevate the “other” things above the gospel itself we create false saviors and expectations that will not endure the test of time.

 

“Unfortunately, the gospel just isn’t enough for many people.  We’re always trying to add something to God’s grace.  Soon, the issues that drive our churches (such as strengthening families, pursuing social justice, or even studying the Bible) can start to take on gospel-level importance in our minds.  

Don Carson reminds us, ‘if the gospel is merely assumed, while relatively peripheral issues ignite our passions, we will train a new generation to downplay the gospel and focus zeal on the periphery.'”  

Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks  

Churches Partnering Together

Pause and ask yourself:

  • What ignites my passions, peripheral issues or the gospel?
  • What is your hope for Christ to build His church?  Music, better programs, social change, government policies, a pastor who tells funnier stories?
  • If you are looking for a church, what exactly are you looking for?

Disclosure:  I do not write the above self righteously, thinking that Trinity Community Church is not the church described above or that I have in any way been a pastor who has always steered a course away from this hopelessness. I love the church I pastor, Trinity Community Church! But, I am not so delusional to think we have this “Gospel Priority” all figured out! I am well aware that, at times, the peripheral has been the priority under my leadership. I hate that! But, isn’t that also the point of the Gospel as well. The church, all of it, is in the process of becoming more like Christ. I think that gospel priorities will always be our challenge this side of eternity. Lesser glories and peripheral issues will always be there trying to draw us away from that which is truly “the power of God to salvation”!

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5 thoughts on “The Almost Church”

  1. The almost church reminds me of Pilgrims Progress when they entered ” vanity fair ” a place with hundreds of distractions that could easily trip one up, much like the many diversions that can lead a church away from the core message of the pure gospel, might we be alert and guard the gospel just as Paul exhorted Timothy to do likewise, preach on Tim, the Holy Spirit will honor his truths as you bring them, yes, continue!

  2. Great companion post, Tim. May we ever be reminded that the Gospel is the heart and soul of the church’s health.

    That Carson quite reminds me of something similar he said, “the first generation loves the Gospel; the second generation ASSUMES the Gospel, the third generation hates the Gospel.” The second generation is the most dangerous position. We are too warm to fear apostasy, yet we have cooled in our first love and so we never live up to our Christ-honoring potential.

      1. He published it in an message on the Acts29 website… Can’t remember the name of it, but I bet it would be easy enough to search and find his contribution. If you can’t find it let me know and I’ll do some serious digging :)
        But I was going from my class notes when I had him for a Biblical Theology course at RTS.

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