Have you ever been a part of a Bible class that just didn’t have very good discernment? It seems like some of the members just don’t understand when it is appropriate to make certain comments or to have disagreements over certain issues. You have been working on bringing someone to church for a year, they finally come, and class is a disaster! You have a fairly easy, home run text, like John 1 and it turns into a messy argument over minutia that is fairly embarrassing. You wonder if your friend will ever return and you wonder if these long-time Christians will ever learn discernment and restraint.
That brings me to my question about discernment and non-Christians. Have you ever wrestled with just how much to tell seekers at particular times in their journey? You want to be honest with them but at the same time you don’t want to scare them away at the very beginning. There are truths about the cost of discipleship, the reality of making sacrifices in your life for Christ, the reality that in a way you even become a sacrifice (Rom 12:1)!
At what cost do we water down the truths of our faith? What kind of disciple is formed out of a misrepresented presentation of what it means to be a Christian? How many people become Christians only later to find out that there is a real cost involved because someone didn’t want to tell them those things and scare them off? This takes discernment. We need to pray for discernment and maturity in how we present the Gospel to non-Christians. Jim McGuiggan once preached that it would be better for us to “leave them alone” than to preach a watered down Gospel that results in non-committed Christians because they are worse off to know and fall away than to have never known in the first place. This is a tough challenge and one that must be faced with prayer and study. Let us never short-change the gospel of Christ. Let us never call people to something that is not the Gospel at all. Let us be bold because we are calling people from death to life. Yet let us be gentle because we are holding people’s lives in our hands and that comes with great responsibility.
You should listen to “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” (if you never have) at http://www.wayofthemaster.com/audiolessons.shtml. It coverse this topic well.
Thanks for stopping by Bill. I will have a listen.
I have wrestled with this exact thing for quit a while now. In my home church, there tends to be the attitude that if they don’t understand then they weren’t meant to be at our church. We rarely see any new growth. Now, I do believe that the truths of God are being taught in our church, however, the delivery is often what makes the difference. I think being sensitive to where people are with God is always something to consider and I think the power of God’s word can be preached in a way that is not watered down and yet, meets people where they are. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other. As in almost everything that Christians argue over, there is a balance here.
I know that there are scriptures that emphasize Jesus’ and the Apostles holy aggression and passion about what they were saying, but there are also scriptures that clearly represent the compassionate, caring, and gentle side to Jesus, the Apostles and the Holy Spirit. I think this is done for a reason. It’s amazing how scripture speaks what we need to hear at the right time in our lives to keep us on track! For example, if one is getting flat out lazy and compromising in their approach with teaching the word, the Holy Spirit might direct them to the passage where it talks about Jesus clearing the temple and being very aggressive with His stance. In another circumstance, for the Christian who’s being overly pushy with the Word to the point that it’s sucking the joy out of coming to church, the Spirit might direct them to the passage that talks about how Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world.
I think we make a huge mistake when we try set our approach one way or another concerning being “seeker friendly” or “non-compromising”. As a body of believers, we should understand that the people of our congregations will always be in different places in there spiritual understanding. It is not our job to focus on getting people where they need to be. We should focus on preaching the topic God puts on our hearts in love and compassion, without compromise, but let the Holy Spirit do the work within each individual, as He is more than capable, and trust Him for that.
Once again, the delivery is everything. If it comes across loving, people will except it and grow over time, if it comes across condemning, people will probably not stick around long enough to ever really grow into God…and I don’t think this glorifies God nearly as much as being patient with those that we know are not where they need to be, yet keep them coming long enough for Jesus to do what He does best…draw people unto Him through His grace & love!