If forced to make the decision, our church from day one has decided that we will offend the self-seeking Christian before the spiritually seeking non-Christian.
I personally believe you can only strategically choose to offend one of those groups.
Some churches are purposely designed to offend the spiritually seeking non-Christian, whether they describe it that way or not. The music they sing, the way they dress, the decorum of their buildings, the vibe they create on Sunday morning, and most important – what they define as a “win” missionally – all combine to create an atmosphere that repels the very people Jesus came to die for.
Other churches believe it’s absolutely critical to nurture the believers in the church into radically sold-out world-changing followers of Jesus, but also believe Christ-followers are called to serve. Jesus taught in Mark 10:43-44,
“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
Christians always define those verses as being willing to do crappy stuff for other Christians without getting any accolades. I’m sure that’s part of it, but I think what Jesus was driving at was that he wanted his followers to purposely choose to not get their own way, to put their own wishes and interests and needs aside in the desire to further his kingdom. Therein lays the motivation to offend the Christian before the non-Christian: Christians are supposed to be willing to be offended.
The Stupid Things Christians Say
Show me someone who keeps whining about not singing enough worship songs, or “being fed,” or doesn’t want the church to focus on evangelism, or missions, or feeding the poor, or singing secular music on Sunday, and I’ll show you a freakishly immature Christian. The sad, and sometimes scary thing, is that 99 times out of 100 they simply don’t realize it.
It’s one thing for a Christian to say, “Hey, I’m giving my life away for the lost and poor, but I’ve got a lot of growing to do. Can you help me?”
It’s an entirely different thing for a Christian to live in the most Christianized culture on the planet, replete with an endless supply of Christian churches, books, TV programs, radio shows, websites, conferences, 501© non-profits, blogs, tweets, Bibles in 67 gagillion translations, etc., and say, “I’m not being fed.” That’s like a morbidly obese person setting down their 11th plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet and screaming at the waitress, “Bring me more food NOW!”
Given the choice of offending this type of Christian or someone far from God, it’s easy to know which choice Jesus would make.