The biggest churches and most famous preachers and writers in the world do not preach grace. If anything, they preach against it to huge audiences, supported by enormous budgets.
Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, grace churches and ministries are small.
Why? Are we doing something wrong?
Are grace pastors simply worse at preaching, counseling, and shepherding? Are grace writers less adept at putting words together on the page? Are grace congregations less loving, welcoming, or organized?
Is there something wrong with our coffee?
I don’t think so.
Neither did Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013).
Capon was an Episcopal priest, theologian, and food writer (which makes for interesting reading!). He wasn’t Free Grace, and I’m not sure he should even be called Free Grace-friendly, but he’s certainly worth reading on religion and grace, and I’ve learned a lot from him.
Capon understood how unwelcome the message of God’s grace was. He had experienced hostility from preaching grace in his pastoral ministry. People don’t want to hear about it. But why?
Capon explained that people are “religion junkies” (Health, Money, Love, p. 93). They’re addicted to it. They’re addicted to the idea that God will only love or save them or have a relationship with them as long as they do the right things. It’s the old “you-must-make-the-correct-sacrifices-before-you-can-be-loved requirement” (p. 92).
So when people who believe that are confronted with the message of grace, they’re repulsed by it:
“if you try to sell the notion of grace to such a religion junkie, she will walk away from you and shop for a fix elsewhere. Any Christian preacher who has seriously tried to convince a congregation that God in Christ no longer has any problems with their sins—that he simply accepts them freely as they are, sins and all, and forgives them out of love—knows that that’s the last thing they will ever buy. You can blame them and curse them and threaten them with hell, and they will feel right at home—grateful, as they always have been, for almost any ritual of expiation you lay upon them. But if you preach free grace, every circuit breaker in their heads will pop” (p. 93).
Of course, some people receive the message with joy. But why only some? Why not everyone? Why does the light go on for some while others short-circuit?
I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to know. While it’s nice to see people respond to the grace message, that’s not a condition for preaching it. We’re called to preach, teach, and disciple in grace, whether many believe or only a few.
What matters is not the smallness of our churches but the greatness of His grace.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.