At this point, you’ve clicked on this article for one of two reasons: 1) You follow this blog and you wanted to see what is rattling around my brain today or 2) You really want to know what I have against chairs. That’s fair, so let me offer some background. There is an evangelistic message that I use when I am invited to speak and occasionally I will use it at church called the 4 Chairs. I didn’t write it nor did I put it together. I first heard it years ago when I heard Adrian Despres present it at a youth conference. I became friends with Adrian (we have a mutual friend that we were unaware of at the time) and I eventually got the courage up to ask if it was ok that I use the 4 Chairs as an evangelistic tool when I spoke. He was very excited and graciously told me he would love for me to use it.
So, without going into the whole thing, here is what each chair represents: Chair number 1 represents those who are completely sold out, believers of Christ, pursuing holiness and growing in their faith daily- not perfect Christians (there is no such thing) but definitely growing. Chair number 2 represents Christians who have gotten comfortable. They attend church, but don’t care to miss for frivolous things. They have growth spurts, but its not necessarily an on-going process. They are believers, but it is often compartmentalized as a Sunday and/or Wednesday thing that doesn’t always make an appearance in their life outside of church unless specifically asked about. They absolutely believe in evangelism, but tend to shy away from doing evangelism themselves. They are satisfied staying where they are until they realize that by staying still, they have moved farther away from Christ, so they catch up (hence the growth spurts). This, unfortunately is where most members of churches are today, especially here in American where we don’t suffer the hard persecution that other countries face. And before pride gets the best of you, ALL OF US have spent time in this chair. Chair 4 (yes, I know I skipped chair 3) are those who know without a shadow of a doubt that they are not Christian. They are what we consider lost people. They act like lost people, they rely on themselves, but something you need to consider as a believer- many of them are wonderful people who are as “good” or better humans than a lot of believers. They love others, they help people in need, they smile at you, and they are great students, neighbors, family members, etc… This is why the gospel is so important to reach them- we can’t be good enough to get to Heaven, and the message of the gospel is that we ALL need a savior.
That brings me to Chair 3- the most dangerous chair in this entire presentation, because the concept behind this chair is very real in our churches today. Chair 3 represents people who have at some point in time in their life been convinced that they are saved, but are not; and now they go through their lives thinking they are Heaven-bound but they aren’t. They sit in churches and hear the gospel preached and never respond to the invitation to accept Christ because they think it does not apply to them. This can happen for a multitude of reasons. Some think that salvation is inherited- their grandparents or parents are Christian so they are. You can identify this mindset because it is often accompanied by them telling you they’ve been Christians “their whole life.”
As a church, however, we need to take responsibility for eliminating this chair in our churches. Too many times, you see a kid walk the aisle at a VBS only to walk it every single year at VBS after that. As a a youth pastor, we see hundreds of students go forward at a conference because they feel convicted for something in their life. There is no doubt that many genuinely give their lives to Christ, but I have seen far too many come back and absolutely nothing changed in their lives. They just wanted to feel better in the moment- but no transformation. You see, you cannot encounter Christ and walk away the same person. Romans 6: 1-5 paints this picture:
What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.Romans 6:1-5
I believe we have a responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen. We, as the church, cannot rubber stamp salvations without putting in the effort to follow up with those new believers, not because they need us to be saved- that’s God’s job, but to talk through what salvation will mean for them. They need to know the road will be tough. They need to know that they will sacrifice things, actions, habits, friends, and sometimes even family. They need to know that this isn’t a decision that fixes all of their problems, that it’s not a quick escape plan, and there will be many more difficult times in their lives. How do we do that? Discipleship! Yeah, yeah, there I go with the D word again. Sorry, not sorry. If we do not take this step, then at the first sign of trouble or opposition they will learn the hard way and many walk completely away from the church deeming it a failure or worse questioning if this “Jesus stuff” is even real. These things happen all of the time and I am fearful how many people are walking around today thinking they are saved and Heaven-bound only to be in for an eternally rude awakening when they stand before the Lord in judgment and He says, “I never knew you.” I was told of a recent conversation between someone close to me and their friend. The friend identified himself as a Christian, but thinks he’s an agnostic or atheist. Those two things cannot co-exist and by identifying himself as Christian, he is convinced that he is saved.
You may think that I am taking a seemingly rigid view of this, but let me ask you- how upset would you be if you thought you were saved your whole life, only to find out you never had a relationship with Christ after it was too late? And how much worse is it, if a church was the one that gave you that false assurance because they did not follow up or disciple you? When you accept Christ, you CHANGE- simple as that. You desires begin looking like God’s desires. You WANT to grow, you WANT to be a part of the body, you WANT others to have the same salvation that you have. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, and see, the new has come.” So, yes, I am taking a rigid view of this because it is that important and no, this isn’t a Keith Jones crusade, I have taken my cues from Christ himself. Read Luke chapter 9, you will discover that Jesus talks people out of following Him as much as He brought people along to follow Him. He explained the cost and what it takes to follow Him. He made sure their commitment was genuine.
Truth is we won’t get them all. Some people don’t want life change, they only want temporary relief from guilt. Others will outright reject the gospel invitation, but we have a responsibility to reach as many as we can with the gospel of Jesus Christ and we definitely have a responsibility to make sure that we follow up and invest in the genuine growth of His disciples. That means making sure that no one walks away from us with a false understanding of their own salvation. This is not meant to make you question your salvation at all- it is intended to make you think- about your life and how the gospel is presented to others. If you feel like you may fall into this 3rd chair, I urge you not to waste another moment, talk to someone you trust and get on that path to follow Christ. My approach…my heart in writing this is if I am wrong in being this particular, then there is nothing to lose, I’ll see you in Heaven; but if I am right, if there are people destined for hell that think they are saved and I don’t say anything, that would be difficult to live with. Church, let’s put the work in. Let’s celebrate new life where there is new life. Let’s all make efforts to become believers in that first chair and let’s make every effort to eliminate the 3rd chair.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach