Christianity is more than sharing the Gospel

Today I was listening to a professor talk about how our worship of practicality has eroded much in the church. He pointed out that in many Christian churches, segregation is common practice. He talked about how he visited a church where he was told they were casual. So he showed up in his shorts and a t-shirt. He then realized what “casual” meant at this church – $50 shorts, $60 polo shirts, and $150 sandals. And everyone was that way and he, being half Japanese, stood out in the all white congregation. He then stated that our love of the practical in Christianity has forced us into segregation over cultures, languages, and economic status.

The above is something that I hope many Christians can agree upon. Unfortunately, someone in the class asked the question, “But if segregation increases our ability to share the Gospel, isn’t segregation a good thing?” The professor, being far more civil than I could have been, simply said, “No, it’s still wrong.”

One of the problems with conservative Christianity is its love affair with all things practical. Having elaborate services with professional-style music, a dynamic preacher, and ministries for the family and even the family pet are all practical because they can help increase attendance numbers. After all, what is more likely to get a person into the pew; a church where they still sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and the sermon is basically the preacher throwing raw chunks of theology at the crowd (and this doesn’t have to be done in a high-brow fashion), or the church that ministers to every need of the person for the “sake of the Gospel”?

The driving aspect of this love of practicality is that, for whatever reasons, conservative Christians think that sharing the Gospel is the most important commandment ever laid upon us. What is so surprising for this sola scriptura crowd is that this elevation of the commandment is no where to be found in Scripture. Even more surprising is Jesus even laid out the most important commandment; love your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. The second deals with person to person love, to love others as we love ourselves. Sharing the Gospel, though a commandment from God, falls into the second category and therefore is not the most important commandment we’ve been given.

Certainly sharing the Gospel is important, but not at the expense of relying on the Holy Spirit, of personal holiness, or of building a strong community and culture of faith. All of these are also commandments and on par with sharing the Gospel. Though Paul does say that so long as the Gospel is shared, what of it, there is also an understanding of personal accountability. If a segregated church can share the Gospel, cool, but this doesn’t excuse segregationist behavior.

On one hand, we should be happy when the Gospel is being spread, but on the other hand we should hope that it is being spread in a holy manner. A perfect example is that I know of a person who, while on an acid trip, swore he saw Jesus. Once he sobered up, he began to look into the faith and eventually came to Christ. Now, though we can be pleased that he ultimately came to Christ, this doesn’t mean we’re going to start handing out LSD or other drugs in church services, hoping to induce a spiritual experience. Likewise, even if God can work in spite of segregation, this doesn’t automatically justify segregation; all it proves is that God can work despite our fallible natures.

Yet, this way of thinking – that each church must have a niche – continues to persist and is not only the norm, but recommended. I remember listening to a church planter say that, “If you don’t have a vision for the type of people group you want your church to reach out to, your church will fail.” Sound economic advice if we’re discussing a product to sell, but when we’re talking about the universal Gospel, such advice is asinine.

Why can’t a church start up in a community with the intention of reaching the community, whatever that community might be? Considering the experiences and teachings of the early church, shouldn’t a modern church be representative of the community as a whole? For instance, if the church is located in western Nebraska, it makes sense that your church will be mostly white, agricultural people, not because of segregation, but because that makes up the majority demographic for the area. If, however, your church is located in south Dallas or Washington D.C. and your majority membership consists of rich, white people, then you have a problem. The opposite is also true, where churches exist within a multicultural area of town, yet the church membership is disproportionately black. This problem is not limited to just one racial or economic community – it extends far beyond one race or one culture.

As brothers and sisters in the Lord, it is high time we began to get over our cultural and racial differences. If two people have a different style of worship, but the same core beliefs, then it is on them to find a way to accept each other’s style of worship and move on. It is up to them to sacrifice personal preferences on how a church service should run and instead realize they are of the same family, regardless of economic status, race, culture, or even language. Allowing the churches to remain separate in these times due to a cultural worship style or because of the bigotry of the congregants is not pleasing to the Lord and no matter how much it helps spread the Gospel (which, I should state, is assumed and not proven), it still isn’t right and is still wrong for believers to engage in such activities.

Christianity is more than sharing the Gospel; if it weren’t, then we would all be called to be full time ministers, to abandon our families, and to do nothing but share the Gospel.


12 thoughts on “Christianity is more than sharing the Gospel

  1. Hey Joel

    I’m not sure this is always or even often bigotry. Look at a nation that just elected a 50% African man most of them knew nothing about to the Oval Office. People in this country are absolutely desperate not to be prejudiced.

    You’ve gone through this, I’m sure, but it’s a matter of worship style, cultural differences, and people not wanting to stand out. My former church would have welcomed any african american or native american family with embarrassing enthusiasm. They also welcomed people of lower socio-economic strata enthusiastically.

    Now I’m in organic-style house church. Maybe I’m wrong, but this just seems like a less threatening environment. Every new family or person gets noticed and welcomed the same. Our music (which is just us singing from booklets we made) doesn’t lend itself to a lot of ethnic differences. We’ll sing anything of any style that is uplifting and has a good tune and isn’t too difficult. Style of preaching isn’t an issue. We don’t preach. Everyone shares what God’s been saying to him/her–everyone participates. We always share a meal.

    Anyway, my point was that a lot of times a person may feel uncomfortable and think the people don’t like him when it’s really just an environment that’s not conducive to making any new person feel like one of the crowd.

    Love, Cindy

  2. Interesting word choice: practical. I don’t think I ever would have used it like this. I am not sure I understand the harm you seem to be discribing either. The leap from “get over our cultural and racial differences” to a disagreement on worship styles ignores a huge chasm full of elements we might be better off trying to understand than “get over”.
    And just how is this: “Why can’t a church start up in a community with the intention of reaching the community, whatever that community might be?” actually any different from this: “If you don’t have a vision for the type of people group you want your church to reach out to, your church will fail.”?

    1. Part of getting over that chasm is beginning to understand why those differences exist. For instance, “black Christianity” is an entirely different sub-culture of Christianity that was, for all intents and purposes, forces upon their community due to slavery and segregation. This in turn creates quite a few differences in worship style and church politics. In order to get over these differences and embrace them (as they are non-essential), we do first have to understand why those differences are there and exactly what those differences are.

      As for the second comment, it should be obvious – few communities are so homogenous that everyone is the same color, culture, language, gender, and age. When trying to reach out to a people group, you inherently limit the other type of people that will want to come to that church. For instance, in Texas there’s a big movement in building “Cowboy Churches.” That’s great for people who like the whole cowboy image, but for those that don’t come from that culture, there’s an automatic exclusion from the church. When trying to reach out to the community, whatever community that might be, that means you’re reaching out to the community surrounding the church. In most instances, this is going to include people of different cultural backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds. It means that the church doesn’t have a “niche.”

  3. Problem–Milk toast isn’t too attractive to any one. Reality–What ever choices you make will attract some and not others. Reaching out to the “community” means assessing what that community is means having a vision for the people you are trying to attract.

    Getting over and embracing are two very different concepts to me.
    “This in turn creates quite a few differences in worship style and church politics.” And the problem with difference is?

    1. I don’t believe that has to be reality. Since when was living and preaching the Gospel not enough? If some people aren’t attracted to that, that is their choice.

  4. Joel–Living and preaching the Gospel looks different to different folks. Some people think Living and Preaching is telling everyone everything they are doing wrong according to the “preacher’s” point of view. Others think Living and Preaching is 24/7 prayer meetings. And still others think it is meeting the physical needs of those who are hungry, sick, cold… I personally believe we (meaning the Church) have a responsibility to understand and at least address the percieved needs of those around us if not actually meet those needs.
    Maybe my use of the word “attract” was inappropriate. I guess I really mean having a vission for the people we are trying to minister to. (I’m just ending with a preposition and the English teacher in me has a problem with the poor grammar).

    1. It might look different in different cultures, but since when was segregation part of living the Gospel?

  5. Who is talking forced segregation? Every place I have ever lived (or visited for that matter) seems to have segregated itself–Chinatown, Little Italy, etc. The only place where that does not seem true is on a college campus. Don’t build “cowboy churches” but don’t be surprised if they don’t come to the one you do build. The point I’m making (and that you seem intent on ignoring) is that whatever church you do build will end up with a certain style (leadership preference) and thus will, in the long run, “attract” that same congregant even if what they THINK they are doing is JUST living and preaching the gospel.

    1. I don’t know, who is talking forced segregation? Certainly not me.

      I’m not ignoring your point. I fail to see the validity of your point, so I’m contending that it’s not true.

      Certainly those who look at Christianity as a buffet-style faith where they get to pick and choose how they worship, or those who are so self-centered in their faith that they cannot make compromises on petty issues won’t come to a church that is truly practicing the Gospel. But that is those people’s loss. Hopefully they will mature in their faith.

      There will be differences theologically between churches and this is where people will begin to separate. But to separate due to race or culture is absurd when the beliefs are the same. That’s what I’ve contended from the beginning, yet you seem hell-bent on disagreeing with me. Be honest, are you simply being disagreeable because of a bruised ego from our last go around?

  6. My ego has no bruises–were you trying to punch it?

    As to whether on not I have a valid point: Can we agree that when preparing to have a “service” certain elements are present? And that, in most services one finds music, a message, some prayer, and the collecting of money and those attending participate to varying degrees. Can we not also agree that the decisions as to how long any given part of the service lasts and what is sung or said during the various elements are generally made by the leadership of the fellowship? If what I just said is true can we not also agree that not all leadership (even leadership with in the same denominations) is exactly alike? And given those two things will there not be meassurable differences between any two fellowships? That is style, preference, the attractability factor. ALL fellowships, even those who think they are “just preaching the gospel” have it. I AM NOT SAYING that people do not or cannot or should not make compromises. But leadership does pick and choose how they and those who attend their fellowships express their worship. It happens and it is not evil. I may prefer to worship only using traditional hymns. I may be able to worship using choruses or spontaneous prophetic praise I just prefer hymns. I am not evil and my action is not wrong if, however I seek out a hymn singing fellowship. Now if I turn around and suggest that the chorus singing fellowship is wrong, or not Godly enough, or not even part of the body because they sing choruses I have stepped across the line that separates style preferences and doctrine. At that point I have stepped into unGodly behavior or attitudes.
    You say: “But to separate due to race or culture is absurd when the beliefs are the same.” I say prove it. What makes it absurd? To intentionaly exclude would be wrong but to voluntarily separate–where is the harm?

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