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Is Your Church Christian or Christianish?

By Tim Challies

Three little letters make a world of difference. Together i, s, and h distinguish Christian from Christianish and mark the difference between right and wrong, life and death, heaven and hell. There is nothing better for your spiritual wellbeing than to be in a Christian church. There is nothing worse for your spiritual wellbeing than to be in a Christianish church. Here are a few marks of each.

Christian church teaches the Bible. It is committed to the inerrancy, sufficiency, clarity, and authority of the Word of God and therefore preaches it week by week with confidence and consistency. A Christianish church teaches about the Bible. It is committed to imparting life lessons and uses the scriptures as a starting point to teach people how to live lives of success and fulfillment.

Christian church admits the deep depravity of human beings. It acknowledges that we are all deeply disordered so that not one of us has even the least righteousness to plead before God. A Christianish church proclaims the inherent goodness of humanity. It acknowledges that we aren’t what we could and should be, but encourages us to believe that with enough effort we can get there.

Christian church makes its core declaration the finished work of Christ. The good news of grace frees us from the impossible task of earning our own salvation and instead simply receives what Christ has already accomplished. A Christianish church has its core declaration the unfinished work of humanity. The bad news of works becomes the brutal and impossible path to impressing God with deeds that will catch his eye and win his favor.

Christian church proclaims the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Believing that our sin has provoked the just wrath of God, it declares in awe that the Son of God willingly took our sin upon himself and absorbed the full fury of the Father’s wrath. A Christianish church proclaims the wrathless love of God and the exemplary life of Jesus Christ, upholding Christ as the ultimate example of what a human being can and should be.

Christian church preaches the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It calls people to repent of their sins and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. A Christianish church preaches a gospel of social justice or personal prosperity. It calls people to right social wrongs or to claim financial enrichment, to repent only of insufficient action or insufficient faith.

Christian church gathers each week to worship the God of the Bible according to the Bible. Knowing their desperate need for divine wisdom, they read the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, and fellowship around the Bible. A Christianish church gathers each week for empowerment or entertainment. Their services are shaped more by pop culture or personal preference than by holy Scripture.

Christian church preaches the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. It echoes scripture in saying Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that there is no other way to be reconciled to the Father but through him. A Christianish church insists Jesus Christ may be a way but not the way, and proclaims instead that all roads lead ultimately to the same destination.

Christian church proclaims the existence of heaven and hell. It takes hold of the authority of the Bible to plead with people to turn to Christ and be saved from destruction. A Christianishchurch affirms an afterlife but denies the possibility of eternal punishment for those who have chosen to reject the free offer of the gospel.

There is nothing in all the world as precious as a truly Christian church. There is nothing in all the world as dangerous as one that is merely Christianish. Choose your church well.

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