A professor once offered an idea on starting conversations with people who haven’t been to church in a while. To  get at a delinquent member’s heart and perhaps to try to determine his attitude toward the church, the prof recommended gauging the person’s reaction to the verse, “Be holy for I am holy.”

Does it strike him as Law? Does it make him fearful? Is he defensive?

Or does he hear it as sweet Gospel? Is he relieved? Does he rejoice in his Father’s goodness?

I get the idea behind it. In theory, it makes sense. But the more I think about it, the more it sounds like those people who can’t answer a question before they preface it with, “Why do you ask?” and then follow up with, “Ask a Law question, you’ll get a Law answer.”

Pastors, what’s the verdict?

7 thoughts on “response

  1. I’m not sure I understand this particular example, but it seems that listening with Law-Gospel distinguishing ears is essential. It’s not the person who is distinguishing Law and Gospel, it should be the pastor. He needs to ask questions and listen to what the member says to know what he needs to be speaking: Law or Gospel. You’re going to make a judgment call as to what you say to them, so why not try to figure out what it is they need to hear?

  2. Pastor Kilps catches my drift. One can lead the proverbial horse to water, but one cannot force them to drink the water.

    In my dealing with people who despise the Gifts (better term than delinquents), Law and Gospel is off their radar screen. Some believe the Christian faith is a necessary evil to be introduced to their children in order to keep their grandparents, great-grandparents, or other seasoned relatives off their backs. You baptize the kids, bring ’em back when they are old enough for confirmation (maybe a trip or two to Sunday School and/or a Christmas program just for fun), then leave them alone to do the same thing when they mate up with someone and have a child, whether or not they marry.

    If children do not see the Christian faith for what it is, but instead see it as making grandma and/or grandpa happy, not to mention other family members, then church attendance to them is nothing less than attending a social event at a country club. This is a learned behavior that is systemic in our congregations to one extent or the other. When you deal with people who view their church attendance like going to play golf or shoot trap/skeet, etc., then expect them not to be in the Lord’s house all that often. Yes, we fear making people mad when the inevitable removal from membership occurs, but it is only following through on how they view the Church.

    Forgive me for the length. I don’t have a magic bullet to deal with this problem. I can only say that removing people who despise the Gifts from church membership should be done, but only after a congregation (not merely the pastor) has exhausted every avenue of encouragement. Should people get mad, let them get mad at those who despise the Gifts instead of the pastor or the elder. Let them get mad at Satan, who has worked this evil deed.

  3. I agree with Rev. Juhl. I think people will respond like a deer caught in the headlights– total incomprehension. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) In the real world, that approach isn’t going to reveal anything except ignorance.

  4. Gosh, I fear the Lord when I hear, “Be ye holy, as I am holy” and I try to go to Church a lot.

    I’m thinking there is probably a better approach.

    In fact, I think just having a conversation and asking them why they have not been attending church, etc. is the best way to go.

    That’s my .02.

  5. Questions are the last thing delinquents want to hear from their pastors. It’s highly unlikely they will hear any question as a “Gospel-question.” I like the litmus test in theory, but not in practice.

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