Many churches today have embraced the mission of “turning irreligious people into full devoted followers of Christ.” As mission statements go, it is a particularly fine one. It’s succinct and well-constructed. Moreover, it reminds one of how Jesus declared His own mission by saying that He did not come to call the righteous, but rather sinners to repentance. The problem is that while these two mission statements sound similar on the surface, they are actually very different…and when pursued, produce very different outcomes.
Jesus’ statement speaks for itself so I won’t elaborate on it. The modern-day church mission statement, however, is synonymous with “turn nonchurchgoers into churchgoers.” This is a very different mission than the one Jesus declared.
Churchgoers are no more righteous than nonchurchgoers. Statistical research as well as your own personal experience bears this out. At best, going to church makes one a “hearer of the word.” Hearing the word, however, is no substitute for doing the word. The primary problem with society today is not that it has not heard the word, but rather that it does not do the word that it has heard. If society is not doing the word it has heard and the churches are not doing the word they have heard, what good is churchgoing?
We have thought that church attendance was either something God commanded, or that it was a preliminary necessity to keeping God’s commands. The truth is that it is neither. Making people into churchgoers is a distraction to making them into righteous people. If someone truly becomes a “fully devoted follower of Christ” he or she will be following Christ – not church.
For a nonchurchgoer to become a churchgoer requires no repentance. For a sinner to become righteous cannot be accomplished without repentance. Let’s stop leading people to church and instead lead them to Christ, making sure that they know that repentance is the means to accomplish this transformation.