One Hurting Group the Church Desperately Needs to Welcome

By Steve Austin | Best of Messy Grace

Aug 15

Believing the lie of performance-based Christianity nearly killed me.

One Group the Church Desperately Needs to Welcome Back

For decades, I lived out the expectations of performance-based Christianity. I have lived through the lies we tell non-believers. We say, “Come just as you are,” but the implied rest of that sentence is, “ …and you have about two weeks to get your act together before we’ll expect to know how much you’ll be tithing and what ministry you’ll serve.”

We tell outsiders, “All you must do is call on the name of Jesus and you’ll be saved.” (Isaiah 1:18) But we fail to tell them the rest of our story, “…and then the real work starts. There’s sanctification, confirmation, and New Member’s class. You’ll need to get baptized(both water and the Holy Spirit), and before long you will need to choose which committee you’d like to join.”

One friend calls it the church’s version of the welfare system. The modern-day pharisees, determining who gets a free ride and who doesn’t. It’s okay for the new guys to be themselves or to have a bad day. They’re still the new kids on the block. But those who have chosen the life of a Christ-follower should know better. No more free rides. Christians have work to do. We don’t have time for bad days.

We have created a culture of people who are more concerned with the external demands of running an organization than the work of Grace in our internal lives. Why does God’s love and forgiveness include terms and conditions once we have prayed the Sinner’s Prayer? We’ve set up this system of beliefs to get us to Heaven, but we are miserable as Hell here on earth.

As an interpreter, my job is to analyze words for meaning. Trust me when I tell you that no one is listening to what you’re saying; they are listening to what you mean. I hurt for those who are sitting in the pews, baptized as teenagers, and now barely holding on. I am crushed for the Christians seeking sanctuary on Sunday morning, who instead find one more obligation they must meet. The Christians who need a holy place to come, lay down their burdens, and simply rest.

Evangelical Christianity isn’t that simple.

A friend describes a season in her life where her most faithful act was pulling into the church parking lot. She had only the courage to show up one more week. If any other expectations had been placed on her during that season, her faith would have crumbled to dust.

I long for the day when the Church universally says, “Just show up.”

Until that happens, I fear church attendance (and the number of people who claim the Christian faith) will continue to drop. Just look at these numbers: in a 2015 Pew study of 35,000 Americans, mainline Protestants have a retention rate among Millennials of only 37%. 

I long for the Church to echo the words of Christ, who said, “Come to me, tired ones. Come to me in your dysfunction. Come to me with your disappointment. Come to me and bring your exhaustion with you. Come to me without production or pretense and rest.” (my paraphrase, obviously)

Here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, I have been pleasantly surprised over the past couple of years to see the Church grow more accepting of alternative lifestyles. I have heard messages both from the pulpit and in private conversations welcoming those with same-sex attractions.

While I’m thankful churches are moving in that direction, I can’t help but wonder, what about our own? Can we welcome Christians back as well? Can we echo the heart of Jesus to those who have been desperately trying to win the love of God, to earn their salvation or at least the approval of church leaders? Can we offer acceptance and peace to them, too?

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for the Church to welcome back Christians.


*If you enjoyed this post, check out “Why I Stopped Hating the Church“.


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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • kaptonok says:

    You speak the truth for many Christians. Those running the church seek crew- members not church-attenders. They have a fear the church garden may go to waste, the pews will not be dusted , the flowers not arranged. Who will run the sunday school ? who will deliver the outreach leaflets? who will collect the infirm and bring them to church.All organisations need workers the big businesses pay for teams of cleaners but they have income.

    • Steve Austin says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • Karoliina says:

        Hi Steve. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What you wrote is current. We have here been thinking that does christianity need a reformation again because the message of the gospel isn’t clear anymore for the reasons you wrote about.
        Stay blessed,
        Pastor Raija & Karoliina
        Open House Christian Church
        Finland

      • Steve Austin says:

        Thanks for reading, my favorite Finnish folks!! Glad this connected with you. Bless you!

  • kaptonok says:

    You speak the truth for many Christians. Those running the church seek crew- members not church-attenders. They have a fear the church garden may go to waste, the pews will not be dusted , the flowers not arranged. Who will run the sunday school ? who will deliver the outreach leaflets? who will collect the infirm and bring them to church.All organisations need workers the big businesses pay for teams of cleaners but they have income.

    • Steve Austin says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • Karoliina says:

        Hi Steve. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What you wrote is current. We have here been thinking that does christianity need a reformation again because the message of the gospel isn’t clear anymore for the reasons you wrote about.
        Stay blessed,
        Pastor Raija & Karoliina
        Open House Christian Church
        Finland

      • Steve Austin says:

        Thanks for reading, my favorite Finnish folks!! Glad this connected with you. Bless you!

  • Amen, Steve. What ever happened to Christ’s lighter burden? His leading us to still waters and green meadows, restoring our souls? Somehow, our churches aren’t giving us His message. We must be different than the world with its busy-ness and deadlines and rush to meet number goals.
    Love and grace and rest for our souls. Now that’s a Sunday sermon worth hearing.

  • Amen, Steve. What ever happened to Christ’s lighter burden? His leading us to still waters and green meadows, restoring our souls? Somehow, our churches aren’t giving us His message. We must be different than the world with its busy-ness and deadlines and rush to meet number goals.
    Love and grace and rest for our souls. Now that’s a Sunday sermon worth hearing.

  • nicecolumnbyshiragmailcom says:

    Very well written!

  • nicecolumnbyshiragmailcom says:

    Very well written!

  • nicecolumnbyshiragmailcom says:

    Very well written! Thought many of us share but not confident enough to speak out.

  • nicecolumnbyshiragmailcom says:

    Very well written! Thought many of us share but not confident enough to speak out.

  • jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

  • jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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