Church Attendance and Hellfire

I was reading a blog the other day which I regularly follow and was perturbed by what I found there. This particular blogger used to be in foster care, and due to all of the bad things which have happened to her, has a difficult time understanding God’s character. In essence, she believes that if He is there, He must hate her because of all the horrific things He’s allowed to happen to her.

In a blog post a couple weeks back she shared about a church sign which did more harm than good. The sign read: “If church is not your concern, you will burn.” The only thing commendable about the sign is that it rhymes. Everything else contained therein is an atrocious misrepresentation. Let me list two things this sign is propagating:

  • Church attendance and eternal destiny are inextricably linked
  • Fear of hell produces desire for Jesus and fellowship with Christians

Irresponsibility
This church sign is irresponsible for more than one reason. Firstly, the Bible never ties church fellowship to salvation. A desire to follow Christ with other believers comes from being saved, it doesn’t precede it. Secondly, fear of judgment does not produce love for God, it displays a need for the Savior. And even then, this sign fails because it’s not helping people understand sin, it’s making them think that they have to do the right things (go to church) instead of trusting in the right Savior. It is a blatant misrepresentation of the Christian faith and of Christ Himself.

Lessons Learned
While I am obviously upset about what the sign says, I don’t want to walk away without learning something from it. All of us have a public arena in which we disclose to others what we believe, think, feel, and so on. We each have our own “church sign” if you follow me. It may be in verbal conversation or it may be on the internet in a place like Facebook or (like me) on a blog. When you’re representing yourself and others, you have a responsibility – it’s called integrity.

So let me offer a few ways that we can see integrity come about in our declarations:

1. Be mindful of who may hear you. The church sign in question did not consider that someone who struggles with belief in God may read their statement and be further damaged by it. When you’re expressing yourself in public, think about the damage or benefit your statement could have on a variety of people. Is it broad enough that, without a qualification, it could be beneficial to a large number of people? This will help you be both pragmatic and helpful to more folks who come in contact with your statements.

2. Be mindful of how your tone will affect the hearer/reader. Let’s assume that maybe the church staff who put up the statement on the sign DID consider who their audience would be and decided to be abrasive anyway. This is extremely damaging. When you are expressing your position, remember that you will largely draw in or push away your “opponent” with tone. Take my response to the sign as an example: I’ve come on strong. This is not by accident since there’s an appropriate time to be firm. But I’m focusing my energy on attacking the statement, not on attacking the people behind it.

3. Be mindful of who you’re representing (or misrepresenting). The sign is making a statement about God. It’s rather important that you represent Him well isn’t it? It’s one thing to misrepresent yourself, that can be corrected with relative ease. But when you misrepresent someone else, that can be much harder to undo. And when you misrepresent someone of great status, the damage is compounded. So be sure to do your background work on the person you’re representing. Know what they’re saying just as well as they do (in the case of God that’s not attainable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t handle your information with the utmost care).

I hope these few insights will encourage all of us to be more thorough, gracious, and helpful in our public self-expression.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

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