Church should be a place of grace givers
Our SBC’s Baptist Press released an article Oct. 4 titled, “Study: 1,300-plus dismissed from Baptist church staffs in ’05.” What a tragedy to the name of Christ and the testimony of Christ to the lost world. It is not confined to smaller churches either. We know of two mega churches in a terrible situation in a neighboring state and numerous smaller churches of our state.
These tragedies can affect the message and ministry of a church for decades … even generations. One church that I am now familiar with cannot find solid, theologically conservative staff to come serve. They have searched for years, only to be turned down by candidate after candidate. Why? When the candidates discover the history of the church’s conflict, they run. I think they reason this way, “Why should I subject my family to serve in a church that doesn’t have forgiveness and grace in it?” Churches that do not resolve conflicts in a godly way drive the next generation from them as well.
If children, students and new-to-the-faith believers see the church as a beehive of fussing, fighting, bitterness and dispute, they leave. They may ask themselves something like, “Why do I want to be part of a mess like this? Life has its own troubles, why come to church and find it?” As soon as students get their driver’s licenses or graduate from high school, they are lost to the life of the church. New believers simply leave and slip away to another church. Many times, it is a small minority who, driven by legalism and operating by manipulation and control, can drive a majority away.
Every church and Christian entity will experience conflict at some point in its life. Why? Because we are a fallen creation. But, the power of Christ and Scripture can guide us safely through even the most troubled waters.
Let me encourage you to work hard at becoming a “grace person” and helping your church become a “grace place.”
“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” 1 Cor 6:9-11.
These three Corinthian verses simply remind us that every one of us was at some point outside of God’s grace. As God’s grace was extended to you, it is inherent in Christian character to extend grace to those around us. Jesus never used the word “grace” itself. He just taught it and He lived it.
Consider the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar in John 4. If Jesus had been a legalist, he would not have talked to this Samaritan; he would have walked around their country, not through it.
Another of the most wonderful and extensive displays of God’s grace is found in Matthew chapter one. In this genealogy of Jesus Christ we find listed four women. One was a woman made pregnant by incest, one was a harlot, one was an adulteress and another was from the despised nation of the Moabites. Isn’t this incredible? It seems to shout at me and say that God’s grace can be extended to anyone.
If God so freely and completely extends grace like this and Jesus taught and lived grace, shouldn’t we too be givers of grace?
I believe that many church conflicts and struggles can be better served and solved with grace. It authenticates the message of Christ to the world. “For by grace you are saved through faith and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God …,” Eph. 2:8. What God gives us, we need to extend to others. It should be natural.
Many lost people don’t have a problem with Jesus; they have a problem with the church, because it is not consistent with the grace demonstrated by Jesus.
No one but God knows the reasons for each of the 1,300 terminations in SBC life last year from our churches. Some may certainly be justified. But I am personally aware of far too many that are due to legalism, control issues and family cliques in churches. Legalism kills; it does not build anything. In fact, an entire book of the Bible is devoted to the subject of rejecting legalism – the book of Galatians.
I believe in my heart that there just has to be a better solution in our Baptist life than the stigma of 1,300 terminations.
Let me close this article by including a few quotes I have gleaned that say so much in such small space:
“Bound and shackled by legalists’ lists of do’s and don’ts, intimidated and immobilized by others’ demands and expectations, far too many in God’s family merely exist in the tight radius of bondage, dictated by those who have appointed themselves our judge and jury,” said Chuck Swindoll.
“I find it tragic that religious killjoys have almost succeeded in taking the freedom and fun out of faith,” he said.
“[The] moralizing and legalizing of the Gospel of God’s grace is a dull heresy peddled to disappointed people who are angry because they have not received what they had no good reason to expect,” said Catholic author Richard J. Neuhaus.
“Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace,” said Donald G. Barnhouse.
“…(P)reaching grace is not only risky, but the fact that some take it to an unwise extreme is proof that a minister is indeed preaching the true grace of God,” said the late British preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Most people want to come to church to joyfully worship the Lord Jesus and grow in His grace. They don’t come to be part of a legalistic, politically correct social club. Be a grace giver and be happy.