Paradigm Issues Facing the Church – Fear vs. Grace

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This is from a comment I made on the internetmonk blog. The more I typed it the more I wanted to talk about some of these issues here.

It seems to me there is a real paradigm issue when it comes to churches that operate either out of fear or out of grace. Churches that operate out of fear tend to micromanage (just to make sure nothing is out of place!). They tend to be harsh and highly judgmental. They tend to operate from a checkbox mentality. This often turns into Pharisaicalism – we did this, this, and this…so we are alright with God this week. This reminds me of Philip’s recent comment on “God and…Or God alone?” in wondering if some people think that if our worship is perfect we can force God into doing things the way we think they should be done.

Other churches operate from a grace perspective. These churches tend to leave more room for people to make mistakes = members have more room to grow. They tend to do more sheperding and are more concerned with Christian identity and transformation rather than checkboxes.

While I think we do need a proper fear and respect of the Lord I also think that of the churches I have been around, the healthiest ones were the ones that operated out of grace and not out of fear (1 John 4:18).

0 Responses

  1. When I think of this issue, I think of Monte Cox & John 1:14. If you haven’t ever heard him expound on it fully, he talks about Jesus being “full of grace & truth.” There are both kinds of churches out there. There’s grace churches where you show up and all we want to do is CELEBRATE! But there’s little demanded of the members… And then there’s truth churches where you show up & make sure you line up on every subject, or else! But there’s little gospel.

    If we are REALLY going to be Churches of CHRIST, we need to be balanced. We have to be full of BOTH grace & truth, not just either/or. So in that sense, I’m hesitant to agree with the let’s drop the fear & embrace the grace paradigm.

    However, I think I know that’s not what you’re saying. And that what you are saying is that from where our churches have been, we need to more more in a direction of grace. And in that sense, I agree.

  2. That is a really good point from Monte and from you Philip. And yes it is an attempt at a pendulum swing without saying I fully embrace what happens if you let it swing all the way.

  3. I really think many confuse grace with what I would call legalism lite. In essence grace in their mind came to shorten the legal list of requirements. In my experience people often move from legalism to this type of grace which really isn’t grace at all. Their paradigm really doesn’t shift and they simply are responding to the legalism and fear that they know is killing their souls but they don’t have a way to contextualize real grace because all they know is legalism.

    I’m not sure this makes sense but I do think it is an important part of the discussion.

  4. Matt,
    The Pharisees took God’s flogging limit of 40 and made it minus one (39). They did this so as to not incur God’s wrath if they accidentally went over 40 by a miscount. This was considered the safe position. I’ve had people tell me that certain positions on the divorce and remarriage issue were at least safe. I asked if it is a safe position to forbid what God may allow. May we always struggle with grace and how it applies in our doctrine and not just our behavior.

  5. Darin,

    That is a good observation and makes total sense.

    That is what worries me the most – forbidding what God allows.

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