The sinner-sensitive church would give freely out of profound gratitude to a God who somehow saw fit to give us an undeserved chance. The sinner-sensitive church would practice the prodigal son ministry, running to welcome those returning from mistakes and bad decisions and sin. Our members would get involved in other people’s lives. We would hold our brothers and sisters accountable to godly standards. Marriage would be cherished. Families would have a community of support during problems and trials. The congregation of the SSC would not be so self-centered that we would demand the undivided attention of the pastor at every little crisis. Other believers would help meet many of those needs that we now prefer to leave to the "professional Christians" on staff. The people of this church would come with hearts ready to be fed but also realizing that God has provided resources beyond any available in history to meet our spiritual hunger. And should we walk out the church doors still needy, we would know we can draw from the marvelous resources of Christian books, music, radio, video, tapes, Internet, and studies to meet our needs. Any one of us could be filled to overflowing if that were our desire.

The sinner-sensitive church would also delight in the company of other spiritual travelers and make it a priority that no one ever felt alone. We would make each other feel valuable but, on occasion, a little uncomfortable. Being comfortable in church is not the primary goal. I am not always comfortable at the dentist’s office. I often arrive in pain because I have neglected to do what I should have done. The staff always makes me feel welcome and even cared for. Then the dentist confronts me with the truth: "You have let this go too long, and I must hurt you (a little) in order to heal you. You will have to pay a financial price and spend time recovering before you are completely well." Those are the facts of my dental hygiene sin. The sinner-sensitive church would not back off the truth either. Decay in the enamel or soul must be addressed. We will tell one another the truth and explain that the process might be a little painful. We would participate in ongoing preventative maintenance and help one another deal with problems as soon as possible, before they become even more painful and expensive to fix.

The SSC would worship with enthusiasm, whether singing hymns or praise choruses, because God is worthy of that praise. The sinner-sensitive fellowship would have a sense of profound reverence because we have received God’s grace, the most amazing gift ever offered. The sinner-sensitive church would be so excited about this grace that the incredible news of the gospel would be as much a part of who we are as our jobs and our families.

Sinner sensitive was the ministry style of our Lord. He was always available to people who realized their need. Merely being a seeker did not necessarily merit His time. The wealthy young man came to Jesus seeking what he lacked to receive eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). However, the jarring truth of Christ’s answer to sell his possessions and give to the poor revealed to him that he was not ready to follow Christ. But when sinners came with a humble confession of need and a willingness obey God, Jesus never turned them away. The church of Acts was sinner-sensitive and functioned much in the way I have described above. (I’m not sure about the praise choruses, though.)

Frankly, sometimes we try a little too hard to "attract" the unchurched. A church that functioned like the one described above would be such a societal miracle that you couldn’t keep people away if you barred the doors. And while the majority of my idealism has been beaten out of me, I still believe that such a church will be possible when we finally reach the point of actually wanting it. That will not come until we decide we are willing to pay the price for such a church. The harsh reality is that most of us are afraid to commit to this radical type of fellowship because we aren’t sure what it would require of us. My own natural reaction is "Praise the Lord but keep the Lexus!" I’ll hazard a guess that you are the same.

That is my dream of what church should look like. A place of grace. A place where others can sing these lyrics and mean it…

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com

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