How close do you need to get to being “of the world” in order to reach the unchurched? I ask this because it has been something I have noticed over the years. With the proliferation of “Seeker-Sensitive” churches and the “Emergent/Emerging” church movement, the emphasis has been moved to a Christianity that seems willing to “blur the lines” of doctrine in order to reach those who were not previously reached. I appreciate the desires of these movements and I appreciate the heart behind them. It has a lot in common with the heart of the apostle Paul who followed the idea of being “all things to all people.” I am reminded in many ways of the approach taken by our master, the LORD Jesus Christ. Jesus was not against dining with the “unclean” and making them feel loved. He never left anyone out of the ever-abiding glow of His grace who sincerely wanted in.
Here, however, is where the similarities end. Unfortunately, the going trend I have seen from these movements is not “bring the unchurched out of the world and introduce them to the life that is found in Jesus Christ.” Instead, it concerns itself with “worship experience design,” is Ted Kluck called it in “Why We Are not Emergent.” The substance of the Gospel that brought repentance and a turn of one’s life toward God is strangely absent in this new worship experience that much like Miller Lite, tastes great but has less filling.
The funny thing is this: while the current church movement is trying to move away from the reality of sin and the chasm between God and us, Jesus never once backed off of that issue. Jesus was quick to offer grace to those willing to receive it, but just as quick to point out their sinfulness as well. I think part of the allure of the LORD is that even though he was just in pointing out the fallen state of man, He did so while holding out grace in His lovingly outstretched hands.
I think this is to be the model of Christianity: Holding out the open hand of grace that is willing to point steadfastly toward the truth of the redeeming gospel of Jesus Christ, that we may both delight in the Lord’s mercy as well as rest in His law and thereby live in peace. The church grew after Christ’s death precisely by not being part of the world. We should do the same.