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I cringe every time I hear the testimony of a Christian who grew up in the church and only later came to understand some fundamental article of the faith. Granted, some things are hard to understand. We have to drink milk before we get to meat. I’m not chagrined about the folks who never learned the word propitiation or never knew the difference between Christ’s active and passive obedience. Those are incredibly important concepts and we ought to teach them from the ground up. But I’m talking about the basics, about the things that every Christian should know backwards and forward, the things we should hear in church all the time.

Granted, people do not remember all they should remember. It’s possible the fault lies with the hearers as much as the speakers. But still, that’s only more incentive to make certain thing crystal clear. We must not assume our people know what they need to know. We can’t assume they’ve heard what we think we’ve told them.

As a pastor, there are certain things I hope the people at my church will never say they never heard. These are not necessarily the most important doctrines of the faith (though some are). Rather, these are the things we easily assume our people know, but often still miss.

And when they miss these things they can end up missing everything.

1. “Being a Christian is more than going to church and being a good person.” We have to make this one absolutely and repetitively clear. I promise you there are people in your church (and mine) who think Christianity consists of attending religious services with some regularity and not screwing up in major ways. Make sure they know the gospel, that Jesus Christ lived the life we couldn’t live and died the death we deserved so that by faith alone we can be made right with God. Make sure they can articulate the gospel too.

2. “We must be born again.” I’m struck that the history of revivals shows that awakenings often follow when preachers return to this theme again and again. Do your people know that they are dead in sin and need the miracle of regeneration?

3. “We need to develop a personal relationship with Christ.” We may tire of the phrase “personal relationship” but it’s trying to get at something crucial for the Christian life. We must really know Christ and love him and walk with him and listen to him.

4. “Mature Christians develop lifelong habits of Bible reading and prayer.” It may be completely my fault, but somehow I didn’t know this until I met some good fundy Baptist friends in high school who started each day with something called a “quiet time.”

5. “Christians suffer.” Our suffering is made worse in this country because no one tells us it is coming.

6. “God can be pleased with me.” The Christians who understand numbers 1-5 often struggle to embrace this truth. Tell your people often that God delights in their obedience. Tell them that God is a loving Father who is pleased with his faithful, though imperfect, children.

7. “Beware of false teachers.” We have not trained our young people well if they leave our safe environment and assume that everyone who goes by the name of Christian or publishes a Christian book or teaches at a Christian school can be trusted.

8. “There is one God in three Persons.” What’s more foundational than God himself? And yet, how many churches adequately, frequently instruct their people in the Trinity.

9. “There are many people in the world who don’t think Christianity is true and some of them are very nice and very smart.” If we are around church our whole lives we may learn that others disagree with us, but their beliefs and arguments are often presented weakly. It’s easy for people to grow up in the church figuring that other worldviews are pretty dumb and/or those who espouse them are obviously bad people. Prepare your people that they will encounter decent and intelligent people who disagree with them. Get them ready to think beyond stereotypes.

10. “There is a reason we worship the way we do.” Granted, this may not be the case in every church. Some worship services are thrown together under the basic rubric of “whatever I like and seems to work.” But probably your church is better than this. Take time to explain why you still sing old hymns, why you try new songs, why you have a prayer of confession, why there is a pastoral prayer, why the sermon is the way it is. Worship goes goofy when church members have never been taught why we worship the way we do.

If you are a pastor, parent, Bible study leader, Sunday school teacher, or anyone who instructs others in the faith, don’t assume your kids or your people know these things. Repeat then. Sing them. Pray them. Ask people to say what you just said. Make them raise their hands. Make them repeat after you. Do whatever it takes to make sure your people can never say they never heard the most important things from you.

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48 thoughts on “Things People Should Never Say They Never Heard at Your Church”

  1. KB says:

    This is great–I copied and pasted it into a Word document so that I can reference it often as I raise my 3 daughters. Thank you so much for putting together such a helpful resource.

  2. EV says:

    Great post…I especially liked number 10 on the list. I think my generation (mid 20’s and younger) are growing up in such a contemporary culture that we equate traditional style worship with being old and legalistic (which of course is not the case). Wish more churches would teach why they worship the way they do. I could use a refresher myself…any chance you have previous blogs on this topic or maybe someone else you know? Thanks

  3. Kevin Jandt says:

    Kevin, this is great. Could you consider adding “Repent” to this list? If we are to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ this should consistently be spoken from the pulpit.

    How can we possibly be saved unless we know to turn from sin?

    I realize this is not viewed as “nice” to tell people they are ugly, wretched sinners but it is the very core of the gospel.

  4. David Matchette says:

    Thanks, Kevin. As a pastor, I smiled when I realized which ones I was ‘doing well’, and paused when I realized which ones I could do better at. KB’s comment [above] also shows us that we need families to help churches get the gospel handed down to the next generation.

  5. Austin says:

    Great reminders! I am a student pastor and desire to communicate these important truths to my students.


  6. A says:

    Personal relationship with Christ, or personal relationship with the Father? This is something that I know has caused confusion to a number of Christians I know, and also to myself, and I have heard very few good explanations taught.

  7. JL says:

    number 1-5? I read as Numbers 1-5!

  8. Welp, looks like I have some rethinking to do. My kids hear a lot of those, but there’s a couple they could stand to hear more often.

  9. Rose says:

    Number 10 really took me by surprise. It is very possible the fault lies with me, but I’ve been around URC for a couple of years now, and I really thought the way we worship was because someone liked it and it seemed to work, at least as long as it didn’t violate any Scriptural prohibitions. Interesting.

  10. Barry says:

    @Rose – I think you’ll benefit from a little pamphlet in the lobby at URC that’s titled “Why we worship the way we do” or something like that. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it and I’m not positive it’s up in the new building but it was helpful for me to read it.

    You could also email the church office for a copy.

    Blessings to you.

  11. More often than not, #2 is probably the explanation for how people grow up in the church and somehow miss out. One who has not himself been regenerated is likely to miss out on a great deal of necessary doctrine, even if he’s sitting in the pew every week.

    There’s actually an anecdote that I’ve heard more than once (I’m gonna screw up the details, I’m sure) about a rather famous theologian who grew up in the church, even attended seminary, but became rather agnostic. In his adult years he then heard a sermon on justification by faith which changed his life. He thought, ‘Why haven’t I ever heard this before?! How is it that I grew up in church, went through seminary, but never heard this version of the gospel??’ He later went through his seminary notes and found that it was all there, as clear as day. But without the eyes to see or the ears to hear, he had completely missed it.

  12. Kevin DeYoung says:

    A couple years ago I wrote a very brief one-page insert on worship at URC. You can find it here:

  13. Thanks, this was interesting.

    One typo from #7
    “assume that everyone who goes my the name of Christian” should be
    “assume that everyone who goes by the name of Christian”

    #9 needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of understanding the difference between worldviews and the fact that, although they are intelligent and maybe do much good, the beliefs of other religions are false and there is nothing they have that is good that isn’t already contained in Christianity.

    I think the bigger problem in our world today is the flip side. The side which says (and I heard this in church once), “Other religions have a lot of truth and there is much to learn from them.”

    I think we have what we need in the scripture and right interpretation of such.

  14. Mel says:

    I thought it was God/the Holy Spirit that opened people’s eyes to the truth. Aren’t there people that are told a million times that don’t get it?

  15. Mel –
    Indeed, and I believe KDY would affirm that. The point of the article is that these things are important enough to repeat over and over to make sure people hear these things in your church; that is, they ought not be taken for granted that all churchgoers understand these things.

    KDY – Another potential typo in #3:
    You wrote:
    “We may not get tired of the phrase”…but in context I think you meant: “We may get tired (or We may tire) of the phrase”

    Blessings. Good post.

  16. MarieP says:

    Excellent list! The phrase “God can be pleased with me” is one that’s been very transformative in my Christian walk. I’d actually not heard it much (if at all) until my current church. It’s not enough to get justification right- we need to get adoption (as JI Packer said, the highest blessing) and sanctification right as well!

    As for “We need to develop a personal relationship with Christ,” I’ve found the counterpart very beneficial: “Christianity is more than ‘my personal relationship with Christ.'” As one of my pastors has said, when we are holding fast to the Head, we of necessity find our arms wrapped around His Body as well. Re: A.’s question, I’d say it’s a personal relationship with our Triune God. Hey, I must have heard #8 ;-)

    Some other phrases that could be added to the list:

    “Love is the preeminent virtue of the Christian life”
    “Don’t be a practical atheist”
    “What’s going to matter a billion years from now?”
    “This truth came home to me when…”
    “Let’s look at the context of this text…”
    But also, “Let’s not bleed the text of its meaning”
    “Pray for me”
    “Let’s ask God to…”
    “I don’t know” (Well, ok, not TOO often…)

  17. Christopher says:

    MISSED the most important one and should be Number 1 and that is being a Soulwinner. Jesus was all about us being first and foremost “Fishers of Men”. It amazes me how many churches do not have or promote an aggressive weekly soulwinning program. “… he that winneth souls is wise” Proverbs 11:30

    Christopher – Let’s go soulwinning!!!

  18. JohnM says:

    #10 – Definitely take time to explain…and take time to ask if you don’t know. But what if nobody knows the answer? ;)

  19. I would add that a very common “revelation” that doesn’t seem to hit a lot of people until they go off to college (when they have already developed prejudices about how unloving and disconnected from social justice their church is) would be “Good theology supports, affirms, and demands loving others inside & outside the church.”

  20. mel says:

    Social justice starts with the individual. When people point fingers at the church of their youth they are ignoring their own ego-centric use of the church. Never can they look back with satisfaction everything they unselfishly put forward without expecting something in return.

    It bothers me when people look back angrily at their church claiming they didn’t hear the gospel instead of thanking God for the moment He opened their ears and eyes. Paul didn’t do that.

  21. Don Hartness says:

    Nice. :-)

    A word about #9. I noticed another on this thread discrediting other religions and systems of thought as having nothing of value, stating that the Bible has everything a person needs. It’s this kind of thinking that infects believers, allowing one of those “decent and intelligent” people to expose the simple fact that Christianity (and Christians in general) do not have a monopoly on truth. Fancy that.

    Is it any wonder that so many of our youth fall away from the faith when they go away to college or step out into the real world? We isolate ourselves in our communities, listening to our own music, watching approved movies, and engaging in church-approved functions, with nary a word of dissent from anybody we know. When the rest of the world encroaches on our little set of cherished beliefs (as it has a nasty habit of doing), we are woefully unprepared to answer for what we believe and why we believe it. For many of us, it’s the first time we even asked a question concerning our faith.

    The attack never comes along the line of an utter falsehood. Rather, it has all the appearance of truth, with a little yeast mixed in. Knowing the difference is crucial in a post-modern world. Even if such questions don’t concern you, you should know somebody within the faith that can go to bat for you, or someone you know, should the need arise.

  22. Thanks, a good list. It gave me an idea for preaching at a nursing home ministry. I’m unpaid (which is the way God would have it) and have limits on time so these things help me a lot!

  23. Paul Dulaney says:

    “Christians suffer.” Good point. Reminds me of an amazing book I’ve been reading: Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life by Ronald S. Wallace (1959). What a gift to the church! This guy has summarized Calvin’s very practical teaching on the nuts and bolts of the Christian life in a 350-page book — and not just from the Institutes. Calvin taught not only that Christians suffer, but that they suffer more than unbelievers, and none more than the most godly. See chapters 1 (on Self-Denial) and 2 (on Bearing the Cross). Very sobering stuff. Wallace says in his Foreword that it was beyond the scope of his effort to engage in any sort of criticism or evaluation of Calvin’s views; it is straight “reporting,” so to speak. Even Calvin must be tested against Scripture, but this has definitely been food for thought for me.

  24. Friend says:

    See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

    James 2:24

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  28. Christopher says:

    Well, I guess the soulwinning thought went over like a led balloon. If you never heard of it before… you have now! GO SOULWINNING ” And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”Mark 1:17 KJV


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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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