This past week, at Prince of Peace, we talked about evangelism. This is an important topic because Christ has called us to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. He’s called us to make disciples of all nations. And, as the people of God, we should share his heart for the lost.
However, that being said, there’s a mistake that’s being replicated in church after church across this nation. We often begin to think of evangelism and outreach as a numbers game. We count the number of conversions that have taken place in our church. We count the new members. We count the attendance. We count the giving. And we do anything we can to ensure that the numbers are continually going up. As I was once told, “It’s about butts in the pews.”
My response to this is yes and no. It’s yes because, of course, we want to see people coming into the church. We want them coming into the church because we want them to hear the Word of God. We want people to receive the gospel and to look to Christ in faith. We want them to join with us in the ministry he’s entrusted to us. Again, as the people of God, we want to see the lost coming to faith. We want to see the growth of God’s kingdom.
However, my response to this is also no. It’s not all about butts in the pews. In order to achieve this, churches have made great sacrifices. They’ve made sacrifices that ought not be made.
In order to get butts in the pews, many churches have softened their stance on the truth. They either avoid the difficult issues, so that they won’t offend anyone or drive them away, or they compromise. They will do just about anything to keep their membership heading in the right direction.
We must never sacrifice truth for butts in the pews. Consider with me the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 1. Starting in verse 3, he says: “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
In Paul’s instructions to Timothy, we see that it’s essential for us to proclaim right doctrine. We must be concerned that no other doctrine be taught than the one given to us in God’s Word. We must make sure that what’s being taught is not speculation and opinion, but truth.
He says that the aim of this charge is love. We teach right doctrine and insist on it because of the love we have for others. We ensure that only right doctrine is taught so that people might receive the grace of God that’s in Christ.
This goes against the way that many of us tend to think. We think that it’s more loving to compromise the truth for the sake of people. We think that it’s more loving to give them what they want so that they’ll join with us in our congregation.
However, I want you to think about this for a minute: If we compromise the truth that we might get butts in the pews, are we truly making disciples? If we’re altering our doctrine, if we’re compromising truth, that we might grow the church, are we truly reaching people for Christ? If people are coming because they’ve placed their faith in a compromised version of the gospel, are we truly meeting their spiritual need? Absolutely not.
By doing this, we’re seeking only to build our own kingdom rather than the Lord’s. We’re showing more concern for our church than we are for the souls of men. And this is not what Jesus means when he calls us to make disciples of all nations.
To faithfully carry out the call Christ has given us, we must reach out to those around us. We should desire to see more and more people coming to church and placing their faith in him. But we do this properly as we proclaim the truth and live in the truth. We do this rightly when we care enough to see not simply their butt in the pew on Sunday morning, but their soul in the hands of the Savior.