There are 300,000 churches in America.
There are many wonderful churches that boldly proclaim the gospel and faithfully teach the Bible every week. There is no perfect church in the world, because every church is full of members who are imperfect people.
I think that the biggest issue the American church faces today is related to truth and love.
Love that undermines truth and truth that doesn’t practice love. I’ll briefly explain what that means.
Love that undermines truth
Love is important. The greatest command in scripture is to love God and to love people. God is love.
But some churches can emphasize love to the point where it undermines truth.
For instance, there is a temptation in some Christian circles to consider the love of God and reason that: “since God is love, his love extends to all people, whether or not they believe in God and whether or not they want or accept his love.”
God is love. But that is just taking a slice of the character of God and acting as if that’s the whole pie. God is love. But he is also just, and righteous, and holy. He judges, he has wrath towards sin. God has all of those qualities at all times.
God is love. But the idea of love is not only exclusive to what our culture defines love as.
We tend to value acceptance and tolerance as what it is to love. And it’s true that God meets us where we are, but Jesus doesn’t save us to keep us the same. God is a perfecting God. We sin. We sin so much that we needed a savior, and the gospel is not a message that teaches us that we’re ok and we should just keep doing what we’re doing. We need to live for God and pursue him.
Making love purely about acceptance and tolerance is not the full Biblical scope of what love is. And so it undermines the truth of scripture. And it runs the danger of undermining the inerrancy of scripture (taking the Bible as practical wisdom rather than the infallible word of God). And this view runs the risk of undermining the gospel itself.
Assuming that love and demand for justice are mutually exclusive.
I observe this being the great risk in more liberal denominations.
Truth that doesn’t practice love
I think this is more of a danger in conservative and evangelical circles. We place a high value on the scripture and theology. And well we should because both of those are hugely important.
But we can get so preoccupied with having the right answer that we lose sight of actually living out what we know. This is very similar to the failure of the Pharisees in the gospels. They were very well studied and trained in theology, but they missed the heart of the message.
It can be easy to know the right answer but it’s difficult to live it out in practice.
Truth and love. It comes down to belief and practice. We need both.
Originally published May 9, 2018 under the title “What’s the greatest danger to the church?”
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.