That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Monday, October 17, 2011

Strait vs. Wide

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.  Matthew 7:13-14.

The truth behind these words must have grieved Jesus.  Many will be led through the broad gate to destruction and few through the narrow gate the life.  I imagine His heart was heavy as He contemplated this reality.  My heart is heavy when I think about it too.  So many will be lost, and so few saved.

Two Sundays ago at church we had a time of thanksgiving and praise during our morning service.  One of the church ladies expressed her thanks that our church was small.  She made it clear that she had a desire to see our church grow and to see souls saved, but she quoted this verse as confirmation that the size of our church was an indication that we were doing something right.  I agree wholeheartedly with her statement.

Of course there is nothing in the Bible that says all churches MUST be small or MUST be large.  God can equally be proclaimed and taught in a small church and a large church.   I know large churches that are doctrinally solid, preach the gospel, and are wholeheartedly following God.  I know small churches that have whacky theology and weekly proclaim heresy and false doctrine.  However, we must keep a proper biblical perspective when it comes to size of churches.  Numbers does not equal success.  A large church doesn't guarantee that church is on the right path.  A full sanctuary on Sunday morning does not mean that God is blessing that work.  Yet I see MANY Christians who believe God is blessing their church and they are doing everything right simply because their churches have grown substantially numerically, or because they've been able to build expensive buildings.  However, when I compare what these churches teach, preach, and practice with Scripture they are fraught with error, heresy, and false doctrine!  Rest assured, God will NOT bless false teachings.  I fear many of these "blessings" and much of this "success" is man-made.

I cannot judge the hearts and motives of individuals.  I cannot say that people in churches that spread false doctrine are unsaved.  I do believe many of them are unsaved, but only God really knows that.  I think big and small churches must equally guard against false teaching.  I think big and small churches must equally evaluate and re-evaluate their motives, methods, and ministries.  This guarding and evaluating can only be done one way.  By the infallible standard of God's Word.  Numbers cannot be the standard.  Variety of ministry cannot be the standard.  Multiple campuses cannot be the standard.  Size of the offerings cannot be the standard.  Number of services on a Sunday morning cannot be the standard.  Building projects cannot be the standard.  ONLY God's Word can be the standard.  If God's Word is being preached, wholly and solely, then God's blessing is on that church whether it has 10 or 10,000 people.    

In my observations it's often the larger churches that have the most error.  Jesus did say that path to destruction is broad.  I've also noticed that many who call themselves Christian like the idea of a big church with lots of ministries.  I think this is warped.  Again, they are using size and success as a measure of whether or not a church is good.  Of course, everyone would like to have a large church.  I wouldn't mind at all if my church grew.  A large church offers security.  It offers socialization.  It offers help.  It offers community.  It offers experience.  Everyone wants these types of things.  Because everyone wants them, many churches are focussing on them.  A wise person once said, "what you win them with, you win them too."  If churches are winning people with ideals of community, belonging, security, and experience, then they must keep providing these things or the people will not stay.  That's why big churches become filled with error.  They've won people with the wrong message and method, and now they must continue with that wrong method and message in order to keep them.

When Jesus said these words in Matthew 7, I wonder if He was thinking of more than just the lost vs. the saved?  I wonder if He was thinking of what calls itself "Christian" in the 21st century?  I am absolutely convinced that much of what is considered "Christian" today is nothing of the sort.  Personal experience has shown me that when I compare "Christian" with Scripture, it's just not Christian at all!  The wide gate is present in the Christian realm too.  I would encourage those who are serious about following Christ to keep the Scriptures first and foremost in their lives.  What's popular and accepted often falls in the wide and broad categories.  We need to keep on the strait and narrow!  Like it or not, that often means being small and sometimes even alone.  But, that's Ok.  Those alone on the strait and narrow have a much better ending than the multitudes on the broad and wide.

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