A Grace-Full Reconsidering Of Your Ministry Website — Part 2
by Stephen Trout
I have an older friend who watches a lot of Youtube videos, mostly about what’s wrong with the world.
Sadly, he won’t be running out of videos anytime soon.
The issues he covers run the gamut: race relations, declining civility, gun violence, war, society’s blind adherence to political figures, over-population (he’s not sure about that one), gender dysphoria, and identity… the list goes on.
By the sounds of it, most of the content he consumes is descriptive — everything that’s wrong with everything. Not much good news.
I’ve sympathized with my friend (I’ve told him so) because I share many of his concerns. The world is indeed a broken place — to deny it would be to walk around with rose-colored glasses, or with eyes shut altogether.
Yet the prescriptive part for my friend — what might be done to address these problems — is an open question.
A Grace-less Meeting
Then the other day, he mentioned how he’d been invited out to lunch by an old acquaintance. (I was initially encouraged by this, mostly because my friend doesn’t get out much. And since the guy was also active in a local church, I was hoping for some good things).
Yet as my friend described it, he wasn’t 2 bites into his sandwich before the conversation turned. The topics covered those very same issues he regularly sees discussed on Youtube. Now he was engaged, eager to add his two cents.
Unfortunately, he found himself quickly disillusioned. Part of it was the pejorative tone. He couldn’t help but feel that his church friend’s disdainful words — mostly about the “crazy, leftist liberals” and “moral failures” in our country — were actually directed at people like him.
Let’s “take back the country from these godless forces” was the clear, takeaway message. Leaning to the liberal side (politically) as he does, he immediately felt “on the outs.”
So what was this church guy’s prescription? Don’t vote for x candidate, vote for y. Or, as author Trevin Wax puts it, Punch left, and coddle right.
I was saddened to hear this, and I told my friend so. I tried to explain that politics — whether you lean left or right — isn’t the main issue in the kingdom of God (It’s true!)
While political causes do have value, they must be demoted — seen as secondary in importance, along with all other things, as the Apostle Paul noted — to the greater goal and implications of proclaiming “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Regrettably, self-righteousness and a lack of grace during that lunch had eclipsed the chance for genuine encouragement and fellowship in Christ — which is what my friend needed most.
The Wrong Diagnosis
The story goes that GK Chesterton once wrote a reply to a local newspaper’s polling question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” While a long, erudite reply from the great thinker might have been expected, he simply responded this way: “What is wrong with the world today? I am. Sincerely, GK Chesterton.”
In an age of growing pragmatism, Chesterton’s diagnosis was spot-on. It remains so today. In a few words, it sweeps away our default approach: we want to change our circumstances, but God wants to change our hearts.
Yet for many believers today, the problem is primarily “out there.” Our own struggles with sin — and how we are offered cleansing, forgiveness, and imputed righteousness in Jesus — aren’t the main part of the conversation.
And yet Scripture is clear: it’s the sin in our own hearts — as Chesterton knew — that creates our greatest need (see Matt. 15:19,20).
It’s sin — frequently expressed in the idols of political power, nationalism, and self-worship — that keeps us from loving God and neighbor well. Here is the root of so many of our (and the world’s) problems.
When we miss this truth, we end up running to inadequate solutions — other “gospels” (Gal. 1:6–9) — that side-step the real issue of misplaced loves and false worship in our own hearts.
What about your Website?
In part one, we asked this about your website:
“Does it address real struggles, and seek to meet people where they’re at — instead of assuming we know, or making them pass some kind of knowledge test to enter our “club?”
Too often, as my friend experienced, the answers we give obscure Christ to a hurting world. If that’s your norm, it’s going to flow into your website.
Instead of the gracious character of God — that he’s “close to the broken-hearted” (Ps. 34:18 ) — we’ll offer a demanding god in our own image.
Instead of “confess your sins to one another, and pray that you might be healed,” (James 5:16), we’ll confess everyone else’s sin — even though judgment should begin with the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
No wonder so many today are left to conclude: “Those Christians are all self-righteous frauds; they’re no different from anyone else.”
In light of this, it’s critical that our websites send the right message. Our aim should be to produce inviting, grace-filled content (blogs, sermons, podcasts) that keeps this heart-and-Christ-centered focus central. (By the way, for an insightful Youtube message on these very things, see Arguing About Politics, by Tim Keller).
All the important “one another” passages of Scripture that envision how we are to relate — such as “love one another, encourage one another, build one another up, etc.” will only truly flow when the Gospel is kept central, and faith is energized. Only then will we be the “aroma of grace” that others breathe in.
It’s the only thing that will attract a hurting world to Jesus (and to us!)
May God give us the grace to be the arms and legs and heart of Christ, and the sweet “aroma of grace” that our world so desperately needs!
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