A Church Is a Dangerous Place to Be

A Church Is a Dangerous Place to Be


Church - A Safe, Welcoming, and Casual Place?:

            A big stage with smoke machines and flashing spotlights, emotional music and songs, a man wearing jeans and a shirt with tattoos standing on a podium, a sign that reads “Welcome! You are loved here!” These are the pictures that come into our minds when we think about typical broad evangelical churches in the United States of America.

            In recent centuries, many modern American churches have gone through a significant shift in their cultures. For example, in the 20th century, American evangelicalism was impacted by the “Seeker-Sensitive movement,” where churches actively contextualized their cultures, practices, worship, and message to attract irreligious people.[1] In the 21st century then, American evangelicalism is impacted by various social and political movements such as “Black Lives Matter” or “Sexual Revolution”, causing many churches to embrace and promote such cultural agendas to embrace socially marginalized people.

            And while these cultural and social movements, such as the seeker-sensitive, social-justice, and sexual-revolution cultures, have influenced many evangelical churches in various ways, one undeniable influence they have played is convincing churches to reshape their identity – an identity that communicates they are safe, friendly, and casual places to the world and to people.        

            But this raises an important question. Is church really a safe, friendly, and casual place as many modern churches try to communicate to the people? Is church really a place where worshippers and visitors can casually and comfortably enter and enjoy their time? My answer is no. Contrary to many churches that try to communicate to its worshippers and visitors, I would argue that a church is first and foremost a dangerous place to be for anyone.


I. A Place with A Dangerous God

            The church is a dangerous place because it is, first and foremost, a place where a dangerous God comes to meet His people. Contrary to the widely spread view about God in modern American Christianity as loving, accepting, and affirming, the Bible often depicts God as an unapproachable being. For example, there are many accounts in the Bible where saints encountered God in their lives and were utterly swallowed up by fear and dread.

         To mention a few incidents from the Old Testament, when Gideon encountered God at Ophrah, he cried out, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face (Judges. 6:22).” When Isaiah encountered God and saw Him with his own eyes in his vision, he also cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost… For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Isaiah. 6:5)” When Elijah encountered God at the Mount Horeb, he quickly covered his face with a cloak (1 King 19:13) because he understood the danger of being in God’s presence as God had once spoken to Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live (Exodus. 33:20).”

         To be more precise, it is God’s holy attribute that renders Him to be a dangerous being because His holiness cannot tolerate any hint of unholiness or sin in His presence (Habakkuk 1:13a). In fact, the New Testament also recognizes the danger of God’s holy presence as it commands Christians to stand in awe and reverence when they come into the presence of God as it declares, “Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).”

         It is this Holy God who comes to meet and speak to His people every Sunday when worshippers gather together in His sanctuary. The God who does not, “Leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 34:7)”; the God who does not tolerate man’s clever inventions or ways of strange fire (Leviticus 10:1), every man and woman who comes to church every Sunday and stands before the audience of this dangerous God.


II. A Place with Dangerous Disciples

            The church is also a dangerous place because it is where dangerous disciples gather to live a holy life and mature in their faith together as one body. To be clear, I do not mean by “dangerous disciples” as fanatics or cultic followers that commit dangerous crimes or dishonorable scandals as we read in media from time to time. However, what I mean by “dangerous disciples” is that when people come to church, they will find men and women who are willing to go above and beyond for the good of one’s brothers and sisters.

         For example, the Bible teaches us that the disciples of the early church were known for their remarkable unity and selfless charity for one another, being together and having all things in common (Acts 2:44-46). To this end, the Apostles firmly commanded believers to be diligent in gathering (Hebrews 10:25), to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (Romans 1:12), and to exhort one another every day (Hebrews 3:13).

         To put it plainly, church is a dangerous place because it is a place where people will find an authentic relationship. Especially in comparison to individualistic culture that is prevalent in America, people will find that a church is a place where disciples will not hesitate to invade each other’s lives and speak difficult words in order that they may mutually sharpen each other and mature in faith.


III. A Place with Dangerous Enemy

            Lastly, the church is a dangerous place because it is a place where people will encounter and experience a dangerous enemy – Satan. Unlike some common misconceptions in many Christian cultures that the church is a holy place where Satan cannot set his foot in, the Scripture clearly teaches us that Satan can be present in a church and, for that matter, labor to destroy the Church with all his might.

         For example, the Bible warns all believers that Satan is like the birds that come and devour the seeds of the Gospel sown on the ground (Matthew 13:4, 19). He also sows the weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-28, 37-39) within the Church, and even sends his evil spirits to spread false doctrines and confuse the saints (1 Timothy 4:1). For this reason, the Apostle Peter warned believers to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)”, and the Apostle Paul also warned the Ephesians, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).”

         Although we should never overestimate the power and the reign of Satan, we should not also underestimate him either. The Scripture testifies of a real-time spiritual warfare that is waged between the saints and Satan, and Satan desperately strives to discourage, divert, distract, and destroy God’s church.


Why Should Anyone Go to a Church Then?

            So, why should anyone go to a church if it is such a dangerous place? More importantly, if the church is a place where a dangerous God comes to meet and speak to His people, dangerous disciples gather to live life together, and dangerous enemies repeatedly look for an opportunity to destroy anyone and everyone who comes into the church, should we even invite sinners and unbelievers to come to a church?

         Yes, absolutely. Though dangerous a place church may be, the church is nonetheless a place where all men and women can and should come because of Jesus Christ and His finished work upon the Cross. Even though church is a place where the God of consuming holiness comes to meet and speak to his people, believers stand before holy God every week with confidence and joy, being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:16). In the same way, even though church is a place where disciples fostered a countercultural relationship, believers can nurture a deep and authentic relationship of love for one another as they imitate Christ who had loved them to the point of laying down His life for them (John 13:34). Most importantly, while Satan continuously seeks to destroy a church and her saints, the Scripture testifies that Jesus will continue to protect and empower the Church so her enemy will never triumph over it (Matthew 16:17-19).

         And this is precisely the reason why anyone should invite sinners to come to a church. Not because a church is a safe, accepting or an affirming place for them, but because it is a place where they will find Jesus Christ who helps them to stand before Holy God, who grafts them to the life with authentic disciples, and who protects and empowers them to fight against Satan and his hosts.


A Dangerous but Good Place

            Obviously, I am not saying that churches should not endeavor to cultivate a warm and welcoming atmosphere for everyone who comes to worship in their places. Every church should labor to cultivate a culture where people, both believers and unbelievers, feel welcomed and loved when they enter into its sanctuary. Afterall, one undeniable character that marked the early church was a tangible joy which filled the Church of Jesus Christ!

         Nevertheless, every church should also recognize that a church is not a safe, fun, and casual place like many modern churches attempts to be. And only when we recognize that a church is a dangerous place, we will recognize that a church is also a good place to be where we are reminded of the finished work of Jesus Christ for us.