Legalism in your church

Lately, I’ve been approached by people questioning if their church leans toward legalism. My reply hasn’t been a direct yes or no. Instead, I offer some factors for them to consider and gauge for themselves.

1. Rigid Adherence to Rules: The church emphasizes strict adherence to man-made rules and regulations, elevating them to the same level as biblical principles.

2. Judgmental Atmosphere: There’s a prevalent culture of judgment and condemnation towards those who don’t meet the established standards or expectations.

3. Performance-Based Acceptance: Acceptance and worthiness within the church community are tied to outward actions and conformity rather than on grace and inward transformation.

4. Focus on Outward Appearance: Emphasis is placed on external behaviors, appearances, and rituals rather than on the heart’s condition and genuine faith.

5. Fear-Based Teaching: Sermons and teachings often invoke fear, emphasizing punishment or negative consequences for not following the church’s standards.

6. Division and Exclusion: Those who don’t comply with the established rules may be marginalized or excluded from leadership or key church activities, fostering division within the congregation.

7. Lack of Grace and Forgiveness: There’s a lack of emphasis on God’s grace and forgiveness, leading to an environment where mistakes or failures are heavily criticized rather than met with compassion and restoration.

8. Legalistic Leadership: Church leadership models a legalistic approach, setting the tone for the congregation and influencing how grace is understood and applied within the church.

9. Lack of Authenticity and Vulnerability: Members feel pressured to maintain a fa├žade of perfection, leading to a lack of openness about struggles or imperfections, hindering genuine community and support.

10. Minimal Focus on Christ’s Finished Work: The church fails to emphasize the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness, relying more on human effort for salvation and sanctification.

In a grace-centered Church, the focus shifts towards understanding God’s unmerited favor, the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice, and the freedom found in a relationship with Him, rather than rigid adherence to rules and regulations.

Ryan Nelson