Christian author Kyle Idleman made the observation that “what you win (people) with is what you win them to.” For people looking for the real deal, the church shouldn’t put center-stage anything less than the real deal.
When former Christian musician Jon Steingard announced in 2020 that he no longer considered himself a Christian, he was among a number of notables famously deconverting or deconstructing their faith in recent years. As a leader in a local church, what I found interesting was that Steingard identified a rock concert as a catalyst for his faith departure. There was nothing in particular about the band (Coldplay) or their performance that directly challenged his beliefs. Steingard realized that the spiritual experience and unity in worship he felt at church could be had elsewhere. I wonder how many things we provide in our churches to reach people end up leading people away when they find a version they like better elsewhere.
The church, as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12-17) should fulfill a unique role as God’s hands, feet, and mouth in the world. Acts 2 describes the church’s purpose fulfilled in Christ-followers gathered for Biblical teaching, fellowship, remembering Christ’s sacrifice, and praying together. That’s not to say a church shouldn’t do other things, and it certainly doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have an excellent band. God-given talent should be utilized for God-honoring worship.
But when performance and theatrics take precedence over pointing people to Jesus and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word, the church becomes nothing special. If people are coming to your church for the worship band performances, they’ll leave for a Coldplay concert. If they’re coming for your café, they’ll leave you for Starbucks. If they’re coming for a feel-good message, there are plenty of inspirational TED talks on YouTube.
Often people leave a local church for another one, and there are good reasons to do that alongside superficial reasons. But the biggest tragedy is an abandonment of faith altogether. Churches are replaceable by other churches, but Jesus Christ is irreplaceable. To a local church in first century Colossi, the apostle Paul preached of the centrality and supremacy of Christ, the Son of God, as “the head of the body, the church.” (Col. 1:18) Modern medicine can replace a limb and many other parts of the body. You can’t, however, replace the head.
After all, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) At Creekside, our vision is “leading people everywhere to a devoted relationship to Jesus Christ.” Anything else we offer ought to be subservient to making Christ known through what we preach and practice. Our desire is that anyone looking for salvation not have to look very hard to find it.
Jesus is the real deal. Offer—and accept—no substitutes.