Jesus did. He mixed publicly with all kinds of people and taught them. But one thing is sure: while He met people where they were in life, He did not leave them there!
Today churches draw crowds by advertising, “Come as you are. We won’t judge you. We’re all sinners anyway.” Of course we want sinners to come to our church services—adulterers, drunkards, homosexuals, and thieves. But our goal is not to smile and be silent about their sin. Our job is to teach them to repent so they can be saved!
Many church leaders are more interested in numbers than truth. This problem is becoming more acute because church attendance has declined. But we never see men of God in the New Testament compromising and adjusting to gain or keep a crowd:
- Jesus taught sinners. He ignored racial barriers and met the Samaritan woman on common ground, but He did not ignore her sinful relationship with a man and her wrong idea about worship (John 4:1-24). He had compassion on the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, but he also told her, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). Our Lord met with sinners to call them to repentance (Matt. 9:13), but He did not go to brothels or attend drinking parties to find them.
- Paul preached for almost three years in a city that had a large theater that featured singing, drama, circuses and other entertainment. That was the high life in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19). But Paul never tried to bring theatrics into the worship of the church. He never encouraged drama, solos, and other entertainment in the assembly. Paul met the Ephesian people where they were, but he left their shows and performances where they belonged—at the theater. People today who think “church” should be a concert need to consider this.
- Jesus loved and welcomed children (Matt. 18:1-4; 19:13-15; 21:15-16). However, we never read of Him telling priests at the temple, “We need to do something or we’re going to lose our young people. We need to have more for children so they won’t get bored and feel disconnected with all these sacrifices and other grownup rituals. How about having ‘children’s worship’ at the temple?” Christ never did this. He expected children to watch and learn and be patient as their parents worshipped.
- John the Baptist drew crowds, but not by watering down the truth. He told tax collectors, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you” (Luke 3:13). He warned soldiers, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely” (Luke 3:14). He told a sinful king, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18). Yes, he judged them by the authority of the Word of God and had a revival beyond anything we have ever seen. Let church growth strategists ponder this!
- Jesus worked with thousands of people in John 6. He fed them and taught them. As long as he gave them loaves and fish they followed Him. But when He preached something they did not like, the crowd dwindled: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). He did not soften His preaching to hold numbers.
We must reach out to people. We should make sinners feel welcome at church services. We ought to speak the truth in love. But it is neither our right nor our job to keep the truth from them and make them feel comfortable in their lost condition.