Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Food for thought - The Safest Place?

I remember once seeing a set of statistics:
  • Avoid travelling in cars, because they are responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents.
  • Do not stay home, because 17% of all accidents occur in the home.
  • Avoid walking because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians.
  • Avoid travelling by air, rail, or water because, 16% of all accidents involve these forms of transportation.
  • Only 0.001% of all deaths occur in church, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders.
The argument went something like this - When you see how dangerous the world is, the safest place to be is in church.

I always thought they had a point. But now I'm not so sure…

Someone said to me the other day, "Surely it's better that a person is in church on a Sunday than doing something else." You may be surprised to hear that I disagreed with them! To sit in church and hear the gospel is a great thing. It's the best place to be; there you hear the great news that God has provided a way for people to be forgiven for all the wrong they have done. But it could also be an incredibly dangerous place.

It can be dangerous when the gospel isn't preached. Sometimes you can go to church and hear nothing but a watery story with a moral tagged on at the end. What use is that to people who stand on the brink of eternity? Will they thank the preacher as they suffer the agonies of God's wrath? Such a preacher is like a vandal who removes STOP signs from a busy junction.

Some preachers will tell you that if you do enough good then God will be satisfied. That's even worse. Because of them, millions of people are heading down the road to Hell whilst thinking that they are on the road to Heaven. Such a preacher is like a vandal who covers or smashes the emergency escape signs in a building.

Church can be dangerous for another reason. Suppose the preacher does tell you faithfully that you have a problem before God. Suppose he then points out the solution that God has provided at immense personal cost. Suppose that you sit there week after week and do nothing about it. How do you imagine God feels towards you? Is he pleased to see you there? Is he pleased to see you turning your back again on the priceless sacrifice of his dear Son? He sent his Son to die so that you could be forgiven, and do you chose to ignore him?

I once told someone that if they were going to continue to ignore the message that they would be safer sitting in a pub. I meant it - think of Jesus' words to Korazin and Bethsaida in Matt 11:21-22
21 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
23 And you, Capernaum... But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
More bearable for homosexual rapists and child molesters than for those who sat in synagogue and heard about the Messiah - Church can be a dangerous place!

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