Over the years of consulting I’ve noticed two basic views of Christianity. One view understands Christianity to be a way of life that has eternal consequences. The other view understands it to be a way of life that has no eternal consequences. Obviously a huge gulf lies between these two views of Christianity.
I’ve often told the story of a three-day consultation I had in the Northeast. As the pastor was driving me to the airport to go home, he asked me this question, “While you were with us, several times you referred to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. What did you mean by that?” That’s an example of the second view of Christianity. For the life of me I can’t fathom why anyone would put up with what most pastors have to contend with if all they thought they were doing was helping people live a good life. This pastor was in his sixties and coming to the close of a long life as a pastor. As I got out of the car all I could think of was “What a shame to waste a life.” On the way home I prayed for him and all the other pastors who don’t see the eternal consequences of a personal relationship with Jesus.
I’m convinced that this second view of Christianity is held by many pastors, especially mainline pastors. In the beginning of my ministry I didn’t know there were two basic views of Christianity, so I didn’t understand why so many of my mainline friends considered me a maverick. Most of them held the second view of Christianity while I held the first one. I wouldn’t be caught dead being a pastor if one’s relationship with Jesus didn’t have eternal consequences. It wouldn’t be worth it … not at all.
Of course the second view of Christianity is complicated by those who believe Christianity has eternal consequences, but that those consequences aren’t based on a personal relationship with Jesus. They believe there are many ways to God. While this may be the politically correct view of Christianity, it wasn’t Jesus’ view. He said, “No one comes to the Father except by me.”
To put all of this in context I’m sitting on a plane on my way to Detroit and I’m looking at my United app. It shows me I have eight flights scheduled between September and November with a possibility of three more. And to add insult to injury, none were for fishing!!
At this point I stopped and asked myself “Why am I putting myself through this torture? I’m in my late seventies. I have a great dog at home I love dearly and would like to spend more time with her (my wife passed away recently so just my dog). I just recently started playing golf again after forty-two years of not playing and would like to play more while I can still swing a club. So why am I doing this? “All i could come up with was it may help someone find a relationship with Jesus Christ and that makes it all worth it.
I think these two views of Christianity explain one of the main reasons 85 percent of all churches in the US are declining. One view causes pastors to be caregivers rather than transformers and the other view causes pastors to spill their life so that others may find eternal life.
That’s why when we redid our website not long ago we put the phrase “until all become followers of Jesus” in headline fonts on our home web page because we believe that is what life is all about. Life without Jesus is a life wasted, pure and simple and that should break our hearts and dictate all that we do with our life.
So, which view do you hold? One leads to life or one that leads to death. It’s life’s most important question.