One of the ways some churches have tried to bridge the gap between church culture and the world is watering the church down so that the gap between church culture and the world’s culture is not such a big leap. The thinking is that people can more quickly connect if we make the leap smaller. The problem is “small step evangelism” works both ways. It may make becoming a part of the church more attractive from a seeking point of view but it also makes leaving the church more attractive. If the step from the world to the church is small and nearly insignificant, people in the church will see that the step out is just as small and insignificant. We may “win” more people if we have a message of not really having to change very much but what will we be winning them to? Why stay? This ministry model misses the mark entirely and only makes the problem worse. When you do that, those inside have a harder time telling the church from the world and have even more reason to not stick around because they church no longer has anything meaningful to offer that they can’t find somewhere else.
From what I know of our 20 somethings and the relationships I have with many of them they are far more likely to be on board if they see the church really being the church and living out our mission in real, visible, and meaningful ways rather than just being a place to come for an hour and “go through the motions.” So the good news is, our mission is still important, meaningful, and effective in keeping our young people in the church and for reaching out to new people. We don’t need to make the gap between the church and the world smaller in order to satisfy the world and be more appealing to them. Instead, we need to teach and preach how big of a step coming to faith in Jesus Christ really is and how it really separates us in a very real way from the ways of the world.
Here are three sections of scripture that teach very clearly that Christians are very separated from the world and that the step from the world to faith in Christ is not like stepping up a step on your front porch. The step is SO BIG that we can’t even do it ourselves but it is done by grace through faith.
1 Peter 2:1-12 teaches us how different we are to be from the world. Becoming a Christian is a game changer. It is a change of status. It is a change of identity. We become something or someone we were not before. We become God’s people, God’s priests, holy bricks in God’s spiritual house laid on Christ as the foundation. The world rejects Him but we accept Him.
Ephesians 2:1-10 teaches us that without Christ we were DEAD. But he, by his grace, made us alive! In our sins, unforgiven, we deserved wrath but God spared us that by the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:19-23 teaches us that in the world we took part in impurity and wickedness and the wages of those things are death. But God saved us from that and gave us the gift of eternal life. God has set us free. But if we view the church and the world as not all that far apart then we show that these scriptures mean nothing to us! This does not mean we look down on outsiders and non-Christians. It does mean that we realize the spiritual reality of our situation outside of Christ and our situation now as Christians and what a difference God has made in our lives!
Becoming a Christian is no small step and we do people a disservice if we teach it as such. We will win immature believers and weak converts if we maintain small step evangelism. But if we are true to the scriptures and teach the seriousness of a commitment to Christ and from there continue to work to grow people’s faith by opening up venues to actively engage in the mission of God as congregations and as individuals starting from the small children to the very oldest members, I can’t help but think our drop out rate would improve.