Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Making it Hard to Go to Church

I listened to a wonderful message recently by Andy Stanley who pastors a large church in Atlanta. He is also the son of television preacher and author, Charles Stanley. He is a very gifted communicator and church leader. Let me give you a quick synopsis:

In Acts 15 we see the first really big church business meeting. By this time the church in Jerusalem has several thousand Jewish believers. As a result, the common thinking was that before you could be part of the church you first had to be Jewish. Now all Jewish men had something in common. They had all been circumcised. As Gentiles showed a desire to become part of the church this bothered some of the Jewish Brethren. Now there is a formula being proposed. In Acts 15:2 they propose that all Gentiles must be circumcised first before they can become saved and be part of the church. In the words of Andy Stanley, “that’s a pretty high standard for salvation.” Seriously, before you became a church member you had to first have an operation. The new member’s class must have been all women after word of this got out.

In reality, what was happening? The “insiders” were now making it difficult for the “outsiders” to become a part of the church. I find that happening a lot today. In reality we are making it more and more difficult for people to come to church. We are coming up with more and more formulas and requiring more and more change before people can attend our services. In the end, it is the church setting up obstacles making it hard for people to come and attend. It is like climbing a ladder with the bottom half of the rungs all missing. We have made it hard for people to connect with the church and to connect with God. That is what was happening in Acts 15 and it is what is happening today.

In Acts 15:10, Peter asks a question. He asks, “Why do you put God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” In other words, why are you requiring the outsiders to live by the standard of the Law that we were not able to live by ourselves? Why are you making it difficult for people to connect with the church and to connect with God? After all, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Why is it that we are spending all of our time trying to protect what has already been found.

In verse 13, James stands up and in verse 19 he concludes, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God!” AMEN! What a statement! Go James! That is why we here at Grace Church are all about meeting people where they are, not where we think they should be. Why is it that churches today seem to intentionally make it difficult for people to turn to God? What about people like the woman at the well; the woman caught in adultery; and tax collectors like Zaccheus and Matthew? They don’t need more obstacles put in front of them they need some bridges built to them

Why do we want to make it hard for people to connect with the church and with Christ? Listen folks, what we ought to be doing is making it hard for people to go to hell.

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