5 Reasons Why Your Church Must Stop Saying, “Come As You Are”
Almost all churches invite people to “come as you are.” It’s difficult to read what this invitation really means to these churches, since the Bible never says anything like this. Yes, the Bible offers an invitation to sinners to come to Christ: “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Isa 55:3); “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). See also John 6:35; James 4:8; Revelation 22:17.
But none of these texts say anything close to “come as you are.” Instead, Christ invites all sinners to come to him in faith and repentance, whoever they are and whatever they have done in their lives. As well, this unbiblical saying can be easily misunderstood and abused in these ways:
- You can come as you are and continue as you are. If you come as an unbeliever, or a heretic, or someone enjoying a licentious lifestyle, we will not preach faith in Christ, confession of sin, and repentance to you. You don’t need to change, against Paul’s exhortation to put off the old corrupt self and put on the new righteous, holy self (Eph 4:22-24).
- We will not offend you with the true gospel. Our worship service will not mention sin, hell, or even the sufferings and death of Jesus. We will affirm you with God’s love, so you’ll have that warm, fuzzy feeling as you leave.
- You can casually worship God as your Buddy, Bro, or Man Upstairs. Never mind that no sinner can see God and live (Exo 33:20). Or that Isaiah thought he would die when the Lord appeared to him (Isa 6:5). Or that when John saw Christ, he also “fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev 1:17). See also Genesis 17:3; Joshua 5:14; Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 8:17.
- You can worship God the Judge of the Universe casually, doing whatever you want to do. You can come dancing, clapping, shouting, laughing. Hopefully, you won’t be doing that when you come to any court of justice. Because when Israel worshiped God, they “bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” And after they heard God’s Word, they mourned and wept (Neh 8:6, 9). Did Paul have a casual encounter when the glorified Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus? (Acts 9:4). And when we come to the worship service, we appear before the God, the Judge of all (Heb 12:23).
- You can come to the worship service as casually dressed as you want. If you worked out just before the Sunday service, you can come all sweaty in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. You may even treat the service as a pajama party, because God looks at your heart, not at your suit and tie. But if you were invited to Malacanang Palace, or the White House, I hope you don’t come in ripped jeans and pullover hoodie.
Therefore, coming to the worship service “just the way you are,” as Billy Joel or Bruno Mars says, will invite the wrath of God. Unless you left “the way you are” by “falling on [your] face [and] worshiping God… decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:25, 40).