The Problem with Guilt-Free Church
by Rick Whitter
|I saw a billboard the other day advertising a church in the community. In huge letters, it said: “Guilt-Free, Grace-Full!”Having grown up in a spiritual atmosphere where guilt was used like a hammer against those trying to make spiritual progress, I find myself paying attention when I see a sign like that. I realize that many churches use guilt to control people and to get the kind of response they need in order to stay in operation. No one wants to be put on a guilt trip, and most people will no longer tolerate that kind of treatment from church leaders.|
But there is a problem with a guilt-free church: We are all guilty.
Our culture loves to deflect blame. We love to point at someone else:our parents, the government, our spouse – anyone but me! There is a significant move within the evangelical community to remove the sense of guilt from the lives of people. We don’t want anyone to feel badly about themselves. This is basically because so many people reject personal responsibility. But we ARE responsible. We have all sinned (Romans ).
Here are some things to consider:
1. A feeling of “guilt” is required in order to be forgiven.
By guilt, I do not mean that we should beat ourselves up or feel as though we are hopeless. One of the definitions for guilt is “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc.” (Dictionary.com). We must come to terms with our sin. This “guilt” can be defined as godly sorrow. An old fashioned church word for this is “conviction.” II Corinthians says, “For godly sorrowproduces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (NKJV) Worldly sorrow is the destructive kind of guilt – godly sorrow produces repentance, which leads to salvation. We must first be aware that we are sinners; then we can be saved.
2. If there is no guilt, there can be no grace.
3. People deserve all of the truth.
Just because a dessert says it is “guilt free,” that does not mean there are no calories. We can tell people that they will only feel good about themselves when they come to our church. But when the Word of God is preached and the Spirit of God is involved, conviction will take place. This is painful; people avoid it. But we should never remove the opportunity to for people to repent.
4. Don’t force guilt or grace.
These are properties of God; allow Him to do His work in the lives of people. Churches and pastors should preach the truth in love. They should not condemn or judge. Neither should they exonerate or liberate. This is the work of God. The church is only a conduit through which God works.
Think it over. The next time you feel guilty about something, don’t dismiss it as a guilt trip. Don’t find a preacher who will tell you how awesome you are. Pray and ask God to reveal any wicked way within you, and if He shows you something, repent and accept His free gift of grace!