In the last five posts in this series, I wanted to show the things you needed to look for in your search of a church home. Those things included sound doctrine, expository preaching, church discipline, congregational singing, and a plurality of elders.
These are all well and good. A church needs to have these in place in order to be as biblically faithful as can be. However, in line with what 1 Corinthians says, all of these things are in vain unless the church, as a whole, does not express love. In other words, it’s all for nothing if the church does not have a culture of grace.
Ray Ortlund, Pastor of Pastors at Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN, would call this “gospel culture.” We need not only believe the gospel, but let it dictate our relationships. What does it look like to have a cultural of grace, though?
You Can be Yourself
In a church that displays a culture of grace, being yourself comes naturally. There is no need to put a mask on, to “fake it ‘till you make it,” to act like you have it all together. You can be who you are, a sinner-saint just like everybody else.
When the church embodies grace, transparency is an inevitability. No lies, no secrets, no closed-door meetings. Each member knows who they are and where they belong.
When grace saturates the local church, you don’t need to hide or flee when things get rough. You can be you. And other members can be themselves. And we can be who we are in Christ, together. No need to be two-faced or put on a show for others. Be yourself.
Disagreement is Okay
In a time when division is rampant and conflict is overflowing, belonging to a local church that has healthy disagreements is like drinking a glass of cold water after being in the sun all day! It is overwhelmingly refreshing. Many churches are comprised of Christians who consistently make secondary issues primary issues, and that’s when unnecessary division is birthed.
When we understand that disagreement is okay, then the church is truly able to flourish amid its diversity (within biblical parameters, of course). We must all agree on the historical doctrines of the Christian faith and other cultural topics, but there doesn’t need to be a consensus on others, e.g., the end times.
This is part of creating a church culture of grace. By being able to disagree with fellow members, we thereby extend grace to others.
Assuming the Best
One of the best ways to show grace to others is to assume the best of them. We know we’re all sinners, capable of horrific behavior. However, within the context of the local church, shouldn’t we assume the best of those who have also been purchased by the blood of Christ? Wouldn’t you want them to assume the best of you?
This is counter-cultural, because the world makes an awful habit out of assuming the worst of people—even people on “their side.” What better way to display grace in the church than to assume the best of your fellow member?
This means you don’t automatically think the rumor you heard about them was true; or that you fairly represent their side of an argument. In the end, to show grace to them simply means to love them.
And when the whole church does this well is when a culture of grace is created. You can walk inside the church doors knowing you can be yourself, you can have honest conversation with others, and you can grow together in Christ.