Hell is not a topic most Christians like to address. Why talk about hell when you could talk about something much more positive like heaven or living a good life. It seems that many senior pastors have taken on this same notion, of skipping over hell in their sermons and articles. Brian Jones, Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley, has written an article on Pastors.com called The Fatal Mistake of Senior Pastors Who Don’t Like Preaching about Hell.
Jones comments that while we should expect an inclusive agenda at our public schools, it has no place in our churches. He states,
“Too often we want to appear more moral than God. Too often in outreach-focused churches we feel the need to acquiesce to the avalanche of pluralistic pressure to back off of this key doctrine. However, I tell Senior Pastors that I coach that if you really love people, at some point you’ll completely tell them the truth, even if you risk having them walk out your church doors.“
Have you taken a similar risk with family members, friends, teachers, or co-workers? When it comes to telling the whole truth, sometimes we are hesitant with those we don’t know well or those we don’t want to offend. But if we wait long enough, there’s a chance we may not get to take that risk at all. Jones explains,
“As important as being compassionate and inclusive are in the context of a growing church, the overriding virtue that should be held up is faithfulness – both to scripture and the God who breathed it.”
Kindness, generosity, and compassion are virtues that every Christian should show to others. However, if that’s all we’re going to do—pile on grace upon grace without any truth—then we will have accomplished absolutely nothing for the gospel. Christianity is about so much more than morality and kindness. It’s about sharing the truth of life and death, through the grace of Jesus Christ. Truth and grace go together and should not be separated.
Crosswalk.com blogger Paul Tautges expounds, “Because hell is real, and hell is as awful as awful can be, we dare not neglect it, or fear another person’s response to its teaching more than we fear the God who created it for the devil and his angels.”
Yet, there are some Christians who may think grace is all we need to share because hell isn’t real…that we can believe what we want in the Bible and skip over the parts we don’t like. Pastors are not immune this false doctrine either. Jones recalls,
“Two years after leaving graduate school I came to the realization that I really didn’t believe in hell anymore. I was too smart to believe in hell. …Like so many church leaders I’ve met over the years, I bought into the lie that I could serve the God of the Bible but not believe in the entire Bible.”
“During a long retreat at a local monastery I performed an exhaustive word study of the phrase ‘false doctrine’ in the New Testament. When I was finished the Holy Spirit did a number on me. ….I came to the conclusion that I was a liar, as I should have. I dropped to my knees in tears. I repented before God of my duplicity. …That Sunday I stood before my congregation and wept, asking for their forgiveness. It was a turning point in my calling before God.”
There is nothing more humbling than admitting that you were wrong, in front of a group of people who respect you and look up to you. As Christians we have to be willing to come alongside our pastors, to forgive when wrong choices are made, to love through times of struggle and confusion, and to hold our pastors accountable when changes are not made or when repentance is not enough to stay in leadership. While church leaders are held accountable by their church, they are also accountable to God for the truth that they preach. Jones exhorts,
“Over and over again, we are warned that church leaders must hold to the deep truths of the faith. Hell is one of those deep truths, albeit unpopular. Over and over again, we are warned not to be drawn away by unsound doctrine. With pain in his voice that came from years of heading off church train wrecks, Paul pleaded in his final words to Timothy to preach the word, every last bit of it, regardless of how unpopular it became. I’m pretty sure that exhortation still stands.”
Does your senior pastor preach this truth? If you haven’t heard your pastor preach on the topic of hell, ask why. It’s important that we encourage our pastors rather than put them down when we don’t agree with them, but hell is a topic that cannot be left unaddressed by churches. If your church refuses to preach on the topic of hell or thinks that hell is not important, then you may need to evaluate your church membership.