Anything Short of Sin?

There is a popular phrase many Christian leaders are using, and at first glance, it sounds very epic and awesome.  Here it is:

”We will do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ.”

Now before I go into detail here about my thoughts on the subject, I do want to say that I’m not sure that this is a right or wrong issue.  I have plenty of friends who use this phrase at their churches, and even in my own ministry have used it because of the energy the phrase brings to reaching people for Jesus.  But after further review, I’ve been thinking through it and have the following issues with it:

  • God gives the increase

Please don’t mistake me for a Calvinist, though I’m sure we have many similarities, however, in the end, no matter what we do, one thing is true:  God brings people to himself.  That is clear in Scripture.  Of course that doesn’t mean we don’t have a part to play, but when we use the ASOS statement, we focus primarily on our part, and tend to under exaggerate God’s part in the process.  Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 3:7 (NLT):  “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering.  What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”  So while we are called to “water and plant”, the ASOS statement tends to heighten our part in the process.

  • Ironically, this brings us back to legalism

When we say we will do “Anything short of sin” to reach people, we take sin to a  specific line that is materialistic in nature.  In other words, Jesus made it clear that sin is less about specific rules and regulations and more a heart condition that keep us from hitting the mark that God wants us to hit.  So the question I have when I hear the ASOS statement is “when did sin become a specific act again?”  What are we really saying when we say that?  Are we attempting to commandeer the heart of those doing evangelism?  I should hope not.

  • It’s amazing the lengths we will go to justify our own actions as being ‘’not sinful”.

Listen, I know your pastor is spiritual and has great intentions and has written books and is leading the way for the next generation of Christians to dominate our culture to make Jesus famous, but let’s be real for a second.  The heart of man is pretty desperately wicked., and that includes me and even your pastor, so before a church finds itself hanging out at a line of “sin vs. not sinning”, I’m not sure that’s a line I’d want to be near, because I’d probably lose or fall or whatever I would do.  Generally the three areas of sin we fall prey to are lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (that’s what I learned in doctrine classes anyways, so it has to be true).  The pride of life can reach into every heart, including church leadership, so those lines are pretty scary to balance yourselves on.

Anyways, I get why people say it.  It’s a cool statement that propagates urgency in the context of evangelism, and I’m not judging your pastor for using it, I just don’t think it’s a great phrase to use in the context of reaching the lost.  I think I would appreciate if this statement went away from the church and pastors didn’t use it.

I would love to hear your opinions, however, so let me know.  Am I being legalistic?  Am I totally off base here?

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  1. That statement was one that initially drew us to the church we left a while back. But now, that one, and another that’s kicked around a’s ok to not be ok…seem offputting to us, or at least to me. Maybe because I got the impression that it was more about bringing folks to a church, not necessarily Jesus. Perhaps that’s from my woundedness, but, I was never excited about the ok thing, kinda actually hated it, but you’re right..all we really need to do is to hold up Christ (not a holdup, but you get that), and He will draw them. It’s His job, ours is to listen and obey.

  2. The ASOS statement always made me a little early, for one of the reasons you say above – what is one person’s definition of sin vs another’s? How far would one go, and should, to get people to look at Jesus? We should always do more than we are, most times, but if what we do is literally bordering on pride, or hurting someone (and again that’s a very subjective thing to define), what is the message we ourselves wrap around nthe Gospel.

  3. Hello,
    I apologize for being late to this article but I do like it.

    I think there are a few dangers associated with this line of thinking. You mentioned being close to sin, who is defining sin, and the sin issue is tough. For me, I don’t really see the statement as combating sin as much as legalism and man made traditions of the church. Our pastor has used it a lot in reference to improving our building.

    I think another issue that can arise is that those who use it could just be hungry to fill seats. If there isn’t discipleship being done after the person is saved… there is a problem. If all we are trying to do is fill seats and not win people for Christ, that is also a problem. One of the things that my pastor has encouraged us to do is this, he wants us to share Christ with those we know before we ever invite them to church.

    I think that Paul kind of shows this same type of attitude in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 “19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

    If the phrase needs rewritten, I can understand that. I think what Paul says in the second part of verse 22 could be a good replacement for it. “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

    For me, that’s what the statement, “Doing anything short of sin,” really means or at least for me.

    I appreciate the article. I did not find it legalistic at all. Keep on writing!


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