Q&R with Greg Albrecht – “How does a pastor preach to *perfect* people?”


I am a pastor and have long thought that the way we Christians present our doctrines and ideas leaves much to be desired. How do I, as a pastor, handle well-meaning people who have it all wrong?

For example, our denomination considers it important to live a holy life, not to earn salvation, but out of gratitude. Many of our members have misconstrued that to mean we must be perfect like Jesus in order to “stay saved” or we can’t call ourselves Christians. I’ve actually heard some of them say they no longer sin. Our official doctrine makes perfection a goal to be worked toward, with no expectation to reach it in this life. If we continue to aim for the target, I think we will obey God. When we willingly turn from that target and aim in another direction (willful sin) we are clearly not demonstrating our gratitude for the gift of grace.

So, in your opinion, what is the best way to combat sound doctrines that have been traditionalized to mean something else, without destroying good fellowship among believers?


Many people who go to church want to be assured that what they already believe is true. William Sloan Coffin once put it this way: “The church is full of people who are seeking that which they have already found and only want to become that which they already are.” They are not receptive to a message which upsets the status quo. Therein lies the challenge and the danger of ministry.

Jesus was not received with open arms. Matthew 23 is a summary of Jesus’ clash with organized and accepted religion of his day. I believe that Jesus’ reception by much of religion that claims to be organized and dedicated to him – the world of Christendom at large – would be much the same today. At the bottom line, where the rubber hits the road, people generally opt for religious ritual, tradition, deeds, programs and beliefs rather than the grace of God.

The “best way” to confront people who are convinced that their deeds, their obedience, their quest for perfection is critically important to their salvation? Preach Jesus. Preach the gospel.All that is said and done in the context of church should be centered in Christ. Anything that threatens to take the place of Christ, or demand equal time – however innocent, pure and true the issues may be – anything that does not focus on Jesus can and often will lead people away from authentic Christianity.

Many of us use computers every day, at work and in our homes. Computers have what is called a default, when one needs to reboot and start over again. When humans reboot, we always default, by virtue of our sinful human nature, to what we can do, how we can do it, how much of it we need to do. We naturally default, in terms of religion, to performance. We do not automatically default to God’s grace; we do not automatically see our contributions to salvation as worthless.

Many fall for the same kind of performance-based theological combination plate (think of a Mexican restaurant) which at the end of the day amounts to the same kind of religious fast foodothers partake of at some other church. Their church may serve chicken tacos, or cheese enchiladas, or a beef tostada, while we, at our church, are given tamales. But it’s all made in the same religious kitchen, it all comes with religious rice and beans. Okay – enough of the metaphor. It’s breaking down!

We humans are easy prey for anyone who tells us that our contribution to salvation is critically important. Some Christians speak of entire sanctification. Some emphasize holiness. Some, like those who adhere to the official Catholic position, see justification as primarily a human work in which we are assisted and helped by the Holy Spirit. Any of these theological “combination plates” give people the illusion of control, the illusion that what they do has a direct bearing on their salvation.

But the great hymn teaches “I surrender all.” All. There is no way to teach God’s grace without being Christ-centered. May God bless you as you minister the gospel of Jesus Christ and give you strength and courage to do so.

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