It seems everyone in the conservative evangelical world is trying to think more creatively about what to do to get people in church. Or how to ‘be the church’, which of course you can’t ‘be the church’ if you’re not regularly gathering as a local church. In today’s post, I’d like to share an excerpt from From Death to Life: How Salvation Works (Published May 9, 2018 by Free Grace Press). It introduces us to a fictitious Mike whom we probably all know. Or you might even be a Mike. I hope that’s not the case. You don’t want to be like Mike.
“Jesus said you must be born again. That’s the issue. This isn’t just about getting people to come to church but about the devastating reality of the walking dead who are considered believers by themselves and others. These people have not passed from death to life. We won’t fix this problem by trying to dress up the gospel any more than dangling a brownie in front of a dead man will make him hungry.
Consider Mike for example. Though completely fictitious, I bet Mike’s just like a real person you know. He’s living, breathing, walking, and moving, but he’s not alive. When he was 12-years old he repeated a prayer to be saved at Vacation Bible School per the instruction of a well-intentioned VBS instructor. Now that he’s grown, he takes his family to church semi-regularly, puts money in the offering plate, and every now and then prays before meals.
What’s the problem? There’s no love for Christ in his heart. There’s no concern about the mission of Jesus. The Bible is never read or considered except during the occasional sermon when Mike quits daydreaming long enough to pay attention.Although he is present at church a couple of times per month, it cannot be said that he truly loves God’s people. He likes to come late and leave early so he doesn’t have to hobnob with the others. Sure, he likes them insofar as they are agreeable with him. But there’s no eagerness to spend any real time with them, much less to lay down his life for them, to put their preferences above his own, or to serve them in any way. Mike certainly has no desire to exhort his fellow church members to fight sin and walk in holiness.He doesn’t even do that.
This came to a head one night when his wife had the audacity to ask their Sunday school teacher to visit without consulting Mike first. Just as Mike feared, this Bible thumper found out some things he didn’t want known and had the gall to suggest that Mike could not continue unrepentantly in his pornography addiction and still be considered a Christian. Mike fumed. It was none of that guy’s business! And his wife should have kept her mouth shut! Nobody’s perfect, right?
He paced across the floor, finally grabbed his Bible and showed this judgmental meddler the date he had written down 30 years ago. Case closed. He was a Christian because he had a date in his Bible.
Oh, what a tragedy to treat such weighty matters so lightly. Mike would rather blame others than look at his own sins. Mike is a dead man walking, and if nothing changes, he will one day stand before Christ who will say to him, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”A serious-minded reader of Scripture cannot help but observe that the current culture’s definition of what constitutes a Christian stands in stark contrast to the Bible’s description of true believers – people who trust Christ, love Christ, follow Christ, love Christ’s Word, and love Christ’s people. None of that is present in Mike’s life.A serious-minded reader of Scripture cannot help but observe that the current culture’s definition of what constitutes a Christian stands in stark contrast to the Bible’s description of true believers. Click To Tweet
The story of people like Mike resonates with most readers because we all have Mikes in our lives. From our perspective, they seem like “good” people. Sometimes we conclude they are just immature Christians who never really grew in the years since their “conversion.” The reality is, however, that they never genuinely came to Christ in the first place and stand in desperate need to be born again.
There’s a chance that as I was describing Mike that you had someone in mind. Mikes live in nearly every town in America, and on the membership rolls of many churches.
In fact, it’s even possible that a Mike is reading this book right now. If that’s you, please understand that you are in a dangerous situation, but not a hopeless one. Keep on reading…”
Are you a Mike? Do you know a Mike? Not to be cliché here but the only hope we have for the Mikes of the world is the gospel.
This means we must not only preach the gospel but also diligently labor to show its tangible expressions in real time. The gospel isn’t something we check off one day so we can go to heaven, but the very means and essence of transforming grace in our lives. If we hope to combat the issue of false conversions in our day, the answer is not to think of new and creative ways to ‘get more people in church’. The answer is the gospel. This will manifest itself in preaching that is expositional as all of Scripture is either pointing toward our need for the gospel, or predicting the gospel, or explaining the gospel, or showing the effects of the gospel, etc. This mindset will exhibit itself through biblical counseling, faithful discipleship, and persevering evangelism. Perhaps I’ll write more in the future about the many ways this can be fleshed out in a church, but the driving point here is that we don’t need gimmickry to make God great. He already is great, and His greatness is magnified by the unsearchable riches contained in the gospel. Trust it. Rest in it. Preach it. Live out its effects (Philippians 2:12-13).We don’t need gimmickry to make God great. He already is great, and His greatness is magnified by the unsearchable riches contained in the gospel. Click To Tweet
 John 3:3
 1 Peter 3:15a
 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
 Psalm 119:103
 1 John 3:14, Philippians 2:1-4, Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:9-11, etc.
 Hebrews 3:14, Galatians 6:1
 1 John 3:8
 Matthew 7:21-23
 Although, in reality, no unbeliever does good. Not even one. Romans 3:10-12, Luke 18:19