The Verse Most Churches Ignore
In America, cultural Christianity has led to some serious problems. As a result, Christian America has become more and more post-Christian America. One of the greatest reasons for our fall is our unwillingness to obey one particular verse in the Bible. “Accept the one whose faith is weak….” – Romans 14:1.
By failing to include and disciple those without faith along with our impatience with those new to faith, we have caused people with genuine doubts and issues to give up or no longer come to us for help.
Too often Christians have been seen as judgmental and an increased pressure to embrace a facade to look like a “good Christian” has been cultivated. As a result, churches have been tempted to operate under more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Many who follow Christ want everyone to have it together or at least act like they have it together. In the end, people who struggled with their faith or struggled with sinful choices have felt a need to go in one of two directions:
>Hide their struggles and never get help.
>Embrace their struggles and leave the church.
The antidote to this slide away from faith is to follow Paul’s command to the Roman church to “Accept the one whose faith is weak….” – Romans 14:1. Romans challenges the church to create space for those weaker in faith; this exemplifies the love of God and the missional essence of the church.
JUST CONSIDER, WHAT IF…?
>What if churches followed through on Paul’s direction to the Romans to accept those who are weak?
>What if churches allowed people to belong before they believe?
>What if churches communicated to the world in words and in action to truly “come as you are”?
Accepting the weaker person and creating the space for the unbeliever to be among us is difficult and challenging.
The realities of including the weak more intentionally in our church family have multiple facets:
> Struggling people don’t often think of the church as their go-to place to find healing.
> For those who are part of the community, people who are struggling are messy.
> Hurt people hurt people.
> Many of the “more mature” people who follow Christ are looking for a church community in order to hide from the struggles and broken people of the world.
> “More mature” Christ-followers give money to be “fed” rather than looking for ways to invest in skeptics and new believers.
Consider more of the passage:
“Accept the one whose faith is weak…. without quarreling over disputable matters….
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself…
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 14:1, 15:1-6
It appears consumer Christianity is not an issue only in America. Paul challenges the Roman Christ-followers to “bear with the failings of the weak and not please ourselves.” Our human default is towards selfishness and pleasing ourselves. Our American default is to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” more than anything else which leads to a consumer Christianity. The way of Jesus is to build up others – no matter how weak they may be. As spiritually-minded people, another way to say this is that we need to join the mission of Jesus and His Church.
Unfortunately, we have misconstrued this word: “Church.” The Church is not a building. The Church is not a service on Sunday. The Church is not an institution. The Church is not a religion.
We’ve been tricked and confused by distorted views of the Church. Additionally, the stereotype of the world religion known as Christianity often does not represent Jesus well.
- Rather than loving others, religion judges others.
- Rather than inviting others in, religion excludes others who look differently or make different moral choices or believe differently.
- Rather than acknowledging our need for God’s love and forgiveness, religion reeks of hypocrisy and pride.
Instead, the true meaning of the word “Church” literally means “the called out ones.” The Church is the community of people who follow Jesus! The Church are those who give up their entire lives to follow Jesus. We are set apart from the world by our behavior and sent out into the world to bring new life!
We are wounded healers!
There is a universal church – everyone on the planet who follows Jesus and there are local expressions of the church like Gateway. If you follow Jesus, you are part of the Church!
Erwin McManus, our pastor in Los Angeles, used to say: “The Church is not here to meet our needs. We are the Church, and we are here to meet the needs of the world!”
THE TRUE CHURCH
How differently would the world view the Church if we chose to live as we were created to live – loving and serving and meeting the needs of the world around us? The Church’s mission is to advance Jesus’ invisible kingdom. His invisible Kingdom is advanced through the faith, love, and hope expressed by those who follow Jesus!
We do not advance the Kingdom of Jesus through violence, arguments, protests, posts on Facebook or tweets on twitter. We advance His Kingdom through a willingness to lay down our lives to love others as we exemplify Jesus by living godly, holy, and selfless lives. We do this not so that God will love us. He already does! We do this in response to His love – out of gratitude for His love!
Consider the following:
- Evaluate: When are we or our ministry leaders operating out of religious tendencies and obligation as opposed to relationship?
- Invite a friend skeptical of faith to attend a Sunday service. Ask him or her to share what elements resonated and what elements were off-putting and not helpful.
- Challenge your leaders to evaluate their ministry areas to consider if they are creating space for those who are weak in their faith.
- Challenge your leaders to evaluate how they are challenging and helping Christ-followers in fully following Jesus rather than succumbing to cultural Christianity.