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The Perils of Winsomeness: How the Church’s Pursuit of Charm Undermines Its Witness

by | Apr 4, 2023

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Following the seeker-sensitive and emergent church movements, Evangelical churches have been left grappling with a tenacious and disconcerting trend—an approach marked by non-confrontational and uncontroversial stances on contentious social and moral matters, such as abortion, homosexuality, and social justice. By embracing what they believe to be open and empathetic dialogue, these churches and their leaders erroneously assume they are nurturing an atmosphere conducive to fostering understanding, respect, and authentic discourse.

This has been dubbed as being “winsome.”

For instance, rather than urging adherence to a robust and biblically grounded stance on these issues, these churches may host panel discussions or seminars, showcasing a variety of perspectives and promoting reflection on an assortment of views, many of which directly contradict clear biblical teachings. This ill-conceived approach not only lends unwarranted credibility to unbiblical viewpoints but also exposes congregants and community members to deviant perspectives on these issues without providing the necessary apologetics or corrective biblical guidance. In this context, the pursuit of winsomeness does not fortify the church’s witness but, rather, serves to undermine and weaken it.

This strategy seeks to draw in new adherents through charm, amiability, and a palatable presentation of the gospel message and biblical truth. Although this pursuit of winsomeness may at first glance appear innocuous, it ultimately serves only to undermine the very witness of the church it aims to bolster.

At the core of Evangelicalism’s preoccupation with winsomeness lies a significant danger: the gradual, yet perilous, weakening of the gospel’s audacity and unambiguous message, ultimately diminishing its impact. The Bible places great emphasis on the importance of proclaiming the gospel message with both courage and lucidity. For example, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 exhorts believers to depend upon plain speech and the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, rather than pragmatic approaches or clever rhetoric.

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Nevertheless, the fixation on winsomeness often leads churches to temper or even veil the gospel’s more arduous truths, opting instead for messages that are both enticing and easily digestible. This compromise risks diluting the potency and clarity of the gospel, thereby preventing unbelievers from encountering the fullness of God’s transformative truth. As a result, churches that prioritize winsomeness may inadvertently hinder the very mission they set out to accomplish—bringing the life-changing message of the gospel to a world in desperate need.

Entangled in the allure of winsomeness, churches risk veering perilously toward adopting worldly values and customs in their obsessive pursuit of engaging and enticing non-believers. Romans 12:2 beseeches us, though, not to conform to the patterns of the world, but rather to be transformed by the renewal of their minds, transcending temporal entrapments. Nevertheless, the pursuit of winsomeness, whether unwittingly or, at times, deliberately, does blur the boundaries between the sacred and the secular, as churches yield to the culture’s standards for success, happiness, and significance. Consequently, the church’s testimony becomes tarnished, with the gospel’s transformative power rendered indistinguishable from the world’s vacuous assurances.

The Bible calls upon believers to confront sin and error directly, eschewing attempts to win people over with charm or persuasion. Ephesians 5:11, for instance, urges Christians to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but instead to expose them. Yet, an overemphasis on winsomeness can lead churches to shy away from addressing sin and moral issues, fearing offense or alienation. In their quest to be likable, churches may inadvertently tolerate or excuse sin, rather than confronting it with truth and love, thereby enfeebling the transformative impact of the gospel on individuals and communities.

The infatuation with winsomeness can tempt churches to engage in deception or flattery. Proverbs 26:28 warns against utilizing dishonesty and flattery in communication, as they can precipitate ruin. Churches that prioritize charm over truth may inadvertently engage in manipulation or dishonesty, seeking to entice others with an appealing but ultimately inauthentic portrayal of the Christian faith. In contrast, straightforward and honest communication, even when not pleasing or winsome, aligns more closely with biblical principles and demonstrates integrity in the church’s witness.

While the pursuit of winsomeness may initially seem like a beneficial strategy for engaging with the surrounding culture, there is no ambiguity, nuance, or compromise with what God has plainly stated. It ultimately subverts the church’s witness by compromising the gospel’s boldness and clarity, fostering conformity to the world, tolerating sin, and employing deception. Instead of succumbing to the allure of charm, churches must remain steadfastly anchored in biblical principles, proclaiming the gospel with clarity, confronting sin, and maintaining a distinct identity as followers of Christ. It is only through such unwavering dedication that the church’s witness can truly reflect the transformative power of the gospel.

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