Even non-believers are sensing the absurdity of sin. People are longing for the sound of biblical truth spoken clearly.
By Ryan Visconti
Good has come from the seeker-sensitive movement which loudly declared, “You can belong before you believe!” Many churches, including mine, ran similar strategies from the same playbook—all in the name of reaching the lost for Jesus. We made church casual, practical, attractional, and uplifting. Undoubtedly, these strategies were birthed out of a noble desire to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to lost people who historically felt hesitant to darken the doors of a church.
Knowing this history, we can understand why churches have shied away from addressing the more sensitive and culturally volatile sin issues of the day. Years ago, there was less of a need to focus on specific sin issues because most of society shared a consensus about moral standards of right versus wrong. But with passing time, the culture changed, and what people once widely accepted as “sin” they now … just accept.
People have real questions
Paradoxically, this has made intentionally discussing culturally sensitive issues an effective evangelistic strategy rather than a stumbling block to the would-be seeker. In John 4, the Samaritan woman at the well asked Jesus for living water. Jesus could’ve been incredibly sensitive to her moment of seeking. But He didn’t respond to her with an invitation to repeat the sinner’s prayer. Instead, He gave her a direct and rather insensitive command: “‘Go call your husband,’ he told her, ‘and come back here’” (John 4:16, CSB). We know she didn’t have the ability to obey that command because she didn’t have a husband. All she had was an awkward track record of broken romantic relationships.
So why did Jesus bring up this woman’s sex life when she seemed to be on the cusp of a spiritual breakthrough? I can’t definitively know what Jesus was thinking. But I’ll propose He bought up her sexual sin issues knowing that her relational dysfunction was a tangible symptom of her deeper spiritual dysfunction.Jesus had a tendency of highlighting tangible sin issues in order to identify deeper heart issues in people actively seeking truth. — Ryan Visconti Click To Tweet
Jesus had a tendency of highlighting tangible sin issues in order to identify deeper heart issues in people actively seeking truth. The rich, young ruler in Matthew 19 asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to first go sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Again, this doesn’t look like the seeker-sensitive strategy so many mega-ministries have perfected over the years. But Jesus knew that highlighting the man’s love for money revealed his lack of willingness to love the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength.
The church has real answers
Too many avoid preaching about some of the uncomfortable issues of our day, like sexual immorality, gender confusion, abortion, money, or casual divorce. But these problems are tangible symptoms of a culture separated from its Savior. I don’t advocate teaching on these sensitive issues in order to guilt-trip or condemn the listener but to probe the soul like a doctor poking around a patient’s body asking, “Does this hurt?” Conviction hits differently when we talk about personal issues. It’s one thing to embrace the benefits of following Jesus. It’s another thing to lay down our preferences and pet issues. This is where the rubber meets the road and pretending becomes impossible.It's one thing to embrace the benefits of following Jesus. It's another thing to lay down our preferences and pet issues. — Ryan Visconti Click To Tweet
When you talk about money, people squirm because treasure is tied to the heart. The world has linked sexuality to core identity, so those conversations always cut through the noise. Talking about abortion quickly reveals whether people see Jesus as Lord, or just as a would-be Savior. When we highlight these issues, we’re not doing it to make a point or a political statement. Rather, we make a spiritual diagnosis based on God’s biblical standards which aren’t subjective. We need this clarity more than ever if we want to reach people with the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. And in our efforts to reach the lost, we must be careful to remember to disciple the found.
Proclaim the Truth
I’d argue that, currently, the fields are especially ripe as the devil has overplayed his hand. With recent transgender and gender dysphoria debates raging in America, even non-believers are sensing the absurdity of sin. People are longing for the refreshing sound of truth spoken clearly. Parents desperately want help guiding their children through the treacherous waters of gender confusion. In other words, even unchurched people are coming to the church pleading for someone to point them to the true North.By preaching boldly with grace and truth, we help people choose repentance and life over sin and slavery. — Ryan Visconti Click To Tweet
As I’ve become bolder in speaking on these topics, I’ve found that gentle but clear confrontation forces people to make a realistic assessment of where they stand with God. It’s easy to pretend Jesus is your Lord if no one ever highlights the idols in your life. But real talk cuts through self-delusion with the restorative conviction of the Holy Spirit. By preaching boldly with grace and truth, we help people choose repentance and life over sin and slavery. Yes, some will walk away sad like the rich young ruler wanting their vices more than victory. But many others will repent of sin and submit their lives to Jesus. That kind of revival results in a more unified and effective church.
As I’ve leaned into these issues, despite my own hesitations and fears, I’ve been encouraged by the overwhelming gratitude from church members. People are desperate to hear biblical truth from trusted leaders in the church. And pastors have a duty to deliver it. God called us for this very purpose—to equip the saints. If pastors don’t boldly proclaim God’s Word inside the church, how can they expect God’s people to boldly live for Him in a fallen world?
Ryan is the lead pastor of Generation Church in Mesa, Arizona.