Yesterday a pastor asked a question of Facebook – What is repentance? This person has thousands of Facebook friends and the post led to some lively discussion.
I know why he asked. The suggested Scripture for next Sunday is John the Baptist preaching repentance in Matthew chapter 3.
Someone gave me the book ‘Not a Fan’ to read. In it pastor and author Kyle Idleman says he got a letter from someone in his church that said they were withdrawing their membership from his church and the reason they listed was, “I don’t like Kyle’s sermons.” Not expecting a call from the pastor of one of the 10 largest churches in the country, the person who wrote the letter was in shock when he got a call from Pastor Kyle. When he finally got to the point, the person said he just felt like Pastor Kyle’s sermons intrude too much on the person’s life. Kyle said to himself, ‘Umm…. that’s basically my job.’ However, it’s not enough just to go to church and leave feeling bad. Making the church-goers feel bad is not the goal. A pastor’s hope is that the congregation would, on an individual basis, see their own failings, but then agree that something needs to be done. And what needs to be done is for the individual to ask God for forgiveness and turn from that thing from which they need to be forgiven.
And I didn’t come up with the “Making the church-goers feel bad is not the goal” on my own. Paul said as much in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10:
“Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.”
Falling under conviction is a good thing when it causes us to turn to Jesus for forgiveness. Sending you out of the church sad and with a guilty feeling is not the goal. Sending you out with the joy of forgiveness is the goal. If you leave the church sad, you haven’t repented and you haven’t left the church forgiven – you’ve just left sad.