Template for Division:  Insert Your Church Name Here

Orginally published on Thursday, December 28, 2006 at 9:01 AM
by Todd Rhoades

In what I find to be an unbelieve and despicable move, one website is now promoting a template that people can use to protest the direction of their church. Believe it or not, the title of the document reads, "A Statement of Concern: To the Leadership of Insert Church Name". Here's the opening paragraph: "Over the past few years, our church has strayed from complete reliance on the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit, and now in emphasizing modern church-growth methods, preaches a watered-down version of the gospel."

Oh… there is so much to write about on this one; but I’ll let you come up with your own commentary.  Here are just a couple of my first thoughts though, just to get you started:

1.  How do they know the problem in my church or your church?  Have they ever attended?  Do they know me or my pastor?

2.  They must be psychic.  They’ve (without ever being there or even knowing my church name) have been able to isolate that the problem has happened ‘over the past few years’.  Remarkable.

3.  “Modern church growth methods” and preaching a ‘watered-down’ version of the gospel?  Sounds like somebody has a soapbox; or a complex (one or the other).

4.  To anyone from any church who reads this and is disillusioned with their own church, isn’t this just stirring up dissention and conflict?  (I know, the writers of this letter would say that the church leadership has already done this; and they are just pointing out the sins of their leaders).

Am I the only one that finds this infuriating?  (just wondering).  smile

Here’s the rest of the template that you’ll probably be receiving in the next few days from someone in your church:

I. The Main Concern
Over the past few years, our church has strayed from complete reliance on the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit, and now in emphasizing modern methods, preaches a watered-down version of the gospel.

II. Half a Gospel
Our church now presents only half of the gospel in its Sunday church services.  The gospel preached here is a sincere attempt to reach the lost, but is unfortunately a message that only highlights grace and faith in Christ, and leaves out any mention of hell or judgment.  This presentation weakens the essentials of repentance and personal holiness. Biblical words such as “hell,” “condemnation,” “judgment,” and “sin” are avoided and are commonly unmentioned. Typically, these words are exchanged for inoffensive phrases such as “seeker” instead of “sinner.”
In its pursuit of assimilating the latest church growth methods, our church now presents a modern “seeker sensitive” version of the gospel. This softened version of the gospel is meant to be more comfortable to the ears of visitors in hopes of getting them to stay.  No doubt that the true gospel is for sinners. However, the “seeker sensitive” version typically advocates a therapeutic message that convinces “seekers” to simply accept Christ. While the act of receiving Christ should be emphasized, there must first be laid the foundation of judgment and repentance. Presenting a gospel without reference to sin, judgment, and holiness is only half the gospel.

A. The Importance of Judgment
The reason for preaching the reality of judgment is obvious—because it’s real and it’s eminent. While the mention of hell and judgment may offend listeners and even turn some completely away, it must still be preached.  Just as alarming words are meant to wake a sleeping family from a burning house, so are these words meant to awaken the lost.

The judgment of hell awaits all who have failed to keep the perfect law of God.  Since all of humanity is utterly and completely sinful, and all have broken the law of God, all people deserve hell. It is only because of God’s sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ that those who repent and put their faith in Him can enter heaven. A sinner must understand that they have sinned, not only against others, but primarily against a holy God. Failure to mention judgment, whether intentional or unintentional, is in danger of painting a picture of an unjust God.  Since God is perfectly good, he must punish liars, thieves, adulterers, murders, and so on. It is only because God brought punishment upon Jesus on the cross that he can allow repentant believers into his kingdom.

Failure to mention judgment and hell also rob grace of its meaning.  What worth is the concept of grace unless it means unmerited deliverance from punishment? The full message of grace will not make sense to an unbeliever until the dire consequence of hell is made known to him. Just like the situation of a doctor and a patient—the patient will not appreciate the cure until he is told in detail, the severity of the disease. 

B. The Importance of Repentance
In order for a sinner to come to God, they must repent and put their faith in Christ.  Full repentance must be preached and is critical to the process of salvation. In order for a sinner to put their whole faith in Christ, they have to repent—that is confess, renounce, and turn from sin altogether. Faith without repentance is not complete faith. One cannot be a bondservant of Christ while still enslaved to the bondage of sin. 
Often, the reason repentance is left out or diminished is because it is deemed as offensive and insensitive to new church visitors. Whenever the disposition and attitude of the sinner are protected in such a manner, the pride of man is exalted above the Lord’s call to humility.  Failure to fully emphasize repentance, denies the Biblical doctrine of the depravity of humanity.  Humanity’s pride is thus catered to, and as a result, the holiness of God is not glorified.

C. The Misunderstanding of the Message of Grace
When judgment and repentance are negated, the full message of grace is diminished. In place of the full grace message, what is promoted is the idea of Jesus as a life-enhancer.  A common phrase within this presentation is “Come to Jesus, because God has a wonderful plan for your life.” While God does have wonderful plan for your life on His terms, this does not mean protection from persecution, tribulation and strife.  In fact, Jesus mentioned that we should expect and will experience hardship.  When a sinner accepts the gospel on the grounds that they will receive lasting happiness, they will become confused later on when they face difficulty.
Another common phrase is that “Jesus will give you peace and joy.” While this is true, peace and joy are spiritual fruit rooted in the hope of eternal salvation.  Therefore, by leaving out judgment and eternity, peace and joy as incentives are not sufficient within themselves in reaching the lost. The fact of the matter is, that Jesus is not a mere life-enhancer but a life-saver.

By preaching the reality of judgment and hell, the sinner is awakened to his coming end. By then presenting the cross, the love of God is magnified. It is the warning of condemnation that drives the sinner to the cross. By presenting these truths, the gospel therefore makes sense to the unbeliever and the message is infinitely more meaningful.

D. The Importance of Holiness
Typically preached at our church are life affirming, motivational messages. While encouragement is important, the messages presented focus almost entirely on self.  Such messages are only based lightly on Scripture and rely too much on secular self-help principles. Sermons often allude only to a few Scripture references whenever it is convenient to the message.

According to Scripture, the Lord has called us to a life of holiness —which does not necessarily include personal happiness or satisfaction. Holiness is an act of complete surrender when one is wholly devoted to God. When one surrenders their will to God, they have made a conscious decision to die to their own desires and conform to the complete will of God—even if this means persecution, tribulation and strife.  Such a person is consumed only by the desires of God. In doing so, they also put others before themselves. They are then able to love the Lord God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love others as themselves. 
This brings us full circle to repentance. The person who desires to live a holy life continues to put their faith in Christ and also die completely to sin in repentance. Holiness is in keeping with repentance.

III. The Result

A. Half Christians
A gospel void of repentance and holiness is only half of the gospel. There cannot be full repentance without the forewarning of judgment.  There cannot be holiness without complete repentance. A gospel not mentioning judgment or hell, robs grace of its full meaning. What you have left is a message that must resort to a false perception of grace that emphasizes Jesus as a mere life enhancement. In turn, without repentance or a true call to holiness, what is produced are Christians who are still self-centered and entangled in the world. Half a gospel produces half Christians.

B. Lack of Spiritual Growth
This half gospel is one that our church preaches in a sincere attempt to reach the lost. Although it would make sense to make the gospel more accessible, this does not mean the essential truths should be altered in order to make it more acceptable. The fact of the matter is, that there will always be people that will reject the gospel. Jesus never promised results, he only commanded that the gospel be preached.  This softened form of evangelism is a part of the drive to increase church attendance. In hopes of retaining visitors, such a gospel is presented. This overflows and affects the church members. If messages are consistently tailored to visitors, regular attendees and church members are disenfranchised. The opportunity to grow deeper in faith is not made available. The Life Groups do not offer further nourishment for growth because the lessons are still primarily based on the sermon. When the mission of the church is focused primarily on visitors, there results a lack of practical, as well as spiritual fruit. Visitors then continue to come to church expecting much and offering little servanthood in return.

C. What Must Be Done
Our Church must return to the Bible as its sole source of teaching, preaching, and direction.  This does not mean alluding to a few Scripture references in a sermon whenever convenient. Sermons should be Holy Spirit led and solely based in Scripture. The Bible advocates reliance on the Holy Spirit as essential.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit will always advocate the full teaching of the Scripture as essential.
In keeping with the authority of Scripture, our pastor must also proclaim the entirely of the gospel including the reality of hell, judgment, the need for repentance as well as faith, and the call to holiness. It is for the glory of God that the gospel be preached in its fullness—the gospel initiated by the Law, foretold by the prophets, made possible in Christ, and proclaimed by the Apostles and the martyrs. Forever and ever may the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be glorified. Amen.

FOR DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts?

About the Author: Todd Rhoades is the Managing Editor and Publisher of MondayMorningInsight.com (MMI as most of us know it). Besides spending a good amount of time maintaining this website, Todd is on the staff of Leadership Network, helping large churches to better connect, innovate, and multiply what they do best. Todd was also the founder of ChurchStaffing.com, until he sold the site in 2005. Todd lives with his wife, Dawn, and four children in Bryan, OH. He can be reached at .

This post has been viewed 1612 times so far.

  There are 12 Comments:

  • Posted by

    I’m gonna write my own template and it will go something like this:

    Dear [Insert church member’s name]

    Over the past few years, you have sat in our worship services, been fed by our teaching and enjoyed the fellowship of [insert church name], yet you refuse to serve, refuse to give and refuse to obey even the simplest teachings of the Word of God.  You refuse to obey your leaders as not to be a burden to them.

    Therefore, we will ignore any complaints you may have until you repent.

    The anonymous church leadership

  • Posted by Chris Forbes

    I wonder if the writers are aware they are using political marketing tactics to promote their spiritual objectives! Talk about the use of secular principles! This whole presentation seems to be “based lightly on Scripture” since the author managed to work through it without alluding to a “few Scripture references that are convenient” to their message. smile

  • Posted by

    Only glanced over the text, but found it interesting that all there seemed to be was criticism and complaint against “the leadership of ‘insert church name’”. Unless I missed it, I never saw any words of edification, encouragement or even suggestions about different ways of accomplishing the mission. Reminds me of a quote I once read by Dale Carnegie; “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain --- and most fools do.”


  • Posted by Leonard

    Wow!  What a waste of time and web space.  The people who do this stuff kill me.  They typically lead very few if any people to Christ, disciple any other believers, lead any ministries but have “lot’s of experience” in leadership.  To attack and encourage an attack of a pastor and leaders this way is from the pit of hell (there I used hell, I hope they’re happy) and smells like smoke.  Their ranks are filled with people who used to be in ministry but are not anymore because of how disillusioned they got. They find a church, tell you how they think it should be done and then when you don’t create dissension.  To do this they completely ignore the scripture on how to confront an elder, submitting to authority, obeying their leaders who watch over them…

    I don’t mean to use scripture here but here is my policy on stuff like this. 
    Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 

    I tell them to leave but not to go to another church, start one themselves, make it pure, holy, and teach the full gospel to their huddle, but please don’t go to another church and bring your divisive poison.

  • Posted by Andy McAdams

    After 30 years of pastoral ministry I have heard it all and been accused of just about everything you can imagine.  I didn’t preach hard enough about sin and lawlessness, or I preached to hard about certain things and I should tone it down a little so people won’t get offended on their first visit.  Then there was that rumble when we took the KJV Bibles out of the seats and replaced them with NASB.  After all, would people get the straight scoop on the gospel if they didn’t have the direct revelation from heaven?  (Yes…someone did actually say that). 

    Then there was the day that drums actually ended up on the platform and there was a group that was sure we were going to end up dancing the church straight to hell.  Certainly God stopped listening to our prayers because we were praying in people’s homes rather then the weekly prayer meeting, hosted at the church.  Of course everyone had to know that those 6 people were the prayer warriors of the church, all you had to do was ask them…or listen to their long eloquent King Jamesish prayers and count the vast number of “thee’s” and “thous” being used with an occasional “verily” thrown in for extra prayer power.  It was certain that we were headed straight to “compromise city at the corner of watered down gospel” when we change the worship style.  And how could anyone actually hear a “power packed, Holy Spirit inspired sermon with the pastor sitting on a stool rather then standing behind a sacred stand, commonly referred to as a pulpit.  (Yes, we had people that actually called the pulpit the “sacred stand”.) But the day that we proposed to change the name of the church was just too much.  We had gone off the deep end and really gotten liberal because we wanted to drop that “one word” that proclaimed just how special we were.  Too bad they never could see that that word kept people away.

    The fact was that we were more conservative and fundamental in our theology and biblically focused then many of the churches that some of those unhappy people that made such accusations ended up going to.  And yes, we also were accused of producing “Half Christians” but not because we preached half the gospel, but because we didn’t do things “totally” their way.  You know…the way it’s always been done?  Frankly I’m not exactly sure what a half Christian looks like.  Most likely it’s someone that only attends half of the non-productive programs of the church because after all, don’t you measure a person’s spirituality by the number of things they attend?

    It didn’t make much difference that a church that had never grown past 80 people suddenly grew and grew and grew.  It didn’t make any difference that people got saved and discipled and then went on to disciple others.  It didn’t matter that the baptistery was being used on a regular basis and record numbers were becoming members of the church, discovering their spiritual gifts and serving in the church, becoming missionaries, pastors and other full time Christian workers.  The reason it didn’t matter was, 1.  We didn’t do it the same old way.  2.  Sin. (Theirs)

    Sin?  Yes, tolerated sin is the number 1 killer in churches today and is mainly manifested by a “critical spirit” or “gossip” and divisiveness, often masked as “concern for the downward slide of our church.”

    The fact is, I’m a fundamentalist.  I always have been and always will be.  But I am a fundamentalist in theology and not attitude or the lack of willingness to change.  The template on that web site comes from that so-called “Old Time Religion” that fails to see that it’s the message that is sacred and not the methods and if methods threaten the things they have been use to for all these years, then it has to be wrong.  What they don’t see is, it’s that attitude that is killing and dividing the church.

    As a church consultant I advise pastors today to: 1.  Set a strategy for growth.  2.  Make disciples.  3.  Seek to adjust your ministry to be relevant to the culture you minister in.  4.  Train leaders.  5.  Never compromise the Word of God.  6.  Create a climate for growth.  7.  Stay the course, no matter who attacks you and your unified leadership.  8.  Be willing to let some people go elsewhere.

  • Posted by Leonard

    Well said Andy, thanks!

  • Posted by

    Andy, your response was right on target, IMO. Reminded me of the famous last words of a dying church....."we’ve always done it this way.”

  • Posted by

    I’m so glad that just by reading a web site by someone I’ve never met I can become an expert on everything that’s messed up about my church....

    Todd, this and Bob Tilton. Friday came early this week?

  • Posted by Todd Rhoades


    No… this, unfortunately, is reality!


  • Posted by


    Every now and then I read a few of the posts on that website, and it saddens me. Those who comment are often misquoting or mis-representing those they are quoting or referencing.

    So as not to fall into the same trap, I must say that I admire the passion that drives them. However, this “your church name here” letter leaves me scratching my head and wondering. Sowing seeds of discontent and dissension when you don’t really know what is going on with somebody’s church… disturbing and disheartening.

    At least the Bob Tilton story made me laugh!

  • Posted by

    Todd, this post is connected with the other one concerning are we changing the world. How do we change the world when we have to deal with the small minded accusations of those who demand that the gospel and church be made in their image.

    They take powerful terms like grace, repentance and judgment and use them as secret passwords into their little club where they easily determine who is in and who is out. Do people water down the gospel? Sure, but not everyone. Not by a long shot. Do we make mistakes, absolutely, but we do it in the passion to reach people. It is messier trying to share the grace of God with sinners of this world. Jesus understood that.

    I wonder if the words written to the church in Ephesus in Rev. 2 would fit the authors of this little gem?

  • Posted by James Laws

    This letter is crazy. My response is a little long but I posted it on my blog here. The post is called Darkness Falls and gives my response to the whole preach sin issue. I would like to point out that sin should be discussed but only in reference to the light.  Please comment. I would love to hear other thoughts. Great post. It’s crazy I tell you.

  • Page 1 of 1 pages

Post Your Comments:





Live Comment Preview:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below: