Over the years there has been much talk by pastors about the poor spiritual state of their local churches. Questions are asked, “How can folks behave or live in this manner?” and “Why do folks show no urgency to personally share the Gospel?”. These are indeed fair questions and many more could be asked. We could suggest that there is no accountability, they have never been taught Biblically, leadership has done a poor job, or that sin has just entered into the church—these could all be true.
Almost all churches require that an individual desiring to be a church member be a professing Christian—after all that is the Biblical pattern found in Scripture (believers were added unto the church—Acts 2:41). The Bride of Christ (the church) is comprised of those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins and those believers should be living in obedience to the Word of God which gives proof of that conversion (Eph. 5:1-19; Matt. 7:15-23). This is why it is so important to understand that Biblical repentance reveals itself in a new way of life and a putting to death of the “old man” (Romans 6:1-7; Gal. 2:20).
One of the challenges is that the church has allowed non-believers into membership and I believe it occurs for lack of knowledge of what the Gospel of Christ is truly about. PLEASE know that I welcome non-believers to church and we are talking membership. The church leadership, in most churches, is responsible to hear the testimonies of those desiring membership and to make sure there has been a salvation decision. It is difficult to argue when somebody says that they’re a Christian or that they have asked Jesus into their hearts. Might there be value in defining the Gospel to that individual? Some people live very upright lives and don’t know the first thing about the Gospel, which makes it difficult.
The Gospel is the engine of the church that drives all the church does. Scripture is also clear that nothing happens without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). The church needs a clear understanding of the Gospel: that all men (and women) are sinners, condemned to an eternity in Hell, separated from a Holy God, unable to save themselves, but Jesus Christ (the Son of God, the sinless, perfect sacrifice) died for all sinfulness and that those who repent and put their belief in Him can have forgiveness—this is how we are drawn into a relationship with God. God can finally accept us because we are now dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Without a Biblical basis for what the Gospel really is it becomes a matter of personal morality and any behavior can be justified. A life of obedience, beginning with baptism, gives proof of the Gospel change that has occurred (Acts 2:36-41).
As Christians, we cannot afford to disguise or sugar coat the Gospel to get others to accept it—getting others to accept it is God’s job. We are to live as empowered witnesses of the Gospel—after all, we have first-hand experience (Acts 1:8).