The God who “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) wants people everywhere to come to him and join his side. A loving, loyal, hopeful church makes it easier for people to do that but a shame-inducing, grudge-holding, bored church makes it harder. Either way, for good or bad, the church is highly instrumental in the process of bringing people to God.
I think it works like this. Imagine a touching scene in some movie – let’s take Spock’s death scene in the Star Trek franchise’s Wrath of Khan. Spock has just saved the ship but to do so he has had to enter a chamber filled with lethal radiation. He sinks to the floor. His long-time friend stands on the other side of the glass, watching him die. They exchange words of friendship and then Spock breathes his last. Though we have hardly noticed, music has been playing all the while, with a mournful horn and a high, melancholy violin. We wipe the tears from our eyes.
Now imagine the same scene. Spock sinks to the floor and Captain Kirk cries out, “NO!” in despair. But instead of the violin, we hear Yakety Sax by Boots Randolph.
Other than the background music, everything is the same, but this time there are no tears. The scene doesn’t connect. It is not believable. It’s just a couple of actors on a movie set. We turn to a different channel.
The life of the church provides the soundtrack to the words of the gospel. When we are a loving, loyal, and hopeful church, the lyrics of the gospel connect. They are believable. But when the actions of the church and the message of the gospel are mismatched, the words of the gospel fail to connect. People turn elsewhere.
In recruiting people for the kingdom of God, both actions and words will be necessary. Imagine the same scene, this time with heartrending music but without dialog. It would be confusing. We need words and actions, dialog and soundtrack. I know the idea of talking to people about God is intimidating for most of us. What do I say? What if I get it wrong? What if they have a question and I don’t know the answer? That intimidation factor goes down when the right soundtrack plays through our life and church but, even then, it can be scary. So, we need to be prepared.
(Part 2 will post tomorrow.)