Now this is going to be a bit hard for some of you to handle and I get that. I know that my way of thinking and approaching life isn’t for everyone. And that’s a good thing actually! So a word of caution for those of you who can’t or won’t digest the whole article before forming an opinion, I’m going to encourage you to simply close the it and move on.
Alright, if you’re still with me, here we go. The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to heaven. And I firmly believe that. So let’s get that straight right out the gate. I do think that the narrower the path and the more clear cut the direction, the better off we humans are! Knowing that Jesus is the only one who is capable of setting us up for salvation is pretty great if you think about it. You don’t have to wonder if you’ve done enough. You don’t have to question if you have the right attendance at church or have said the right prayer enough times. It’s done. Finished. Complete. No more to be added by you! Pretty cool right?
While I will not argue with Jesus being the only way to heaven, I often get the impression that there are some people who think they have some kind of special sauce when it comes to connecting people to Jesus. There is only one way to heaven, but there isn’t only one way to Jesus. Trigger a flurry of emotions because it sounds like I’m bashing the church or challenging your way of thinking.
Perhaps I am challenging your way of thinking. Maybe I am coming at this a little strong. But from my perspective it seems as if we’ve put the wrong thing in the most important place in the bus as the church. I’ve seen this far too often in the over 20 years I’ve served as a pastor. The church thinks that the world needs us in order to know salvation.
When we value something so much that we want everyone to be a part of it, we can easily make it to be the most important thing when it’s just not. Now before you come unhinged here I am going to be very clear and probably a little more blunt than some would like. Just so there is no question, yes I am saying that the institutional church and corporate worship are not the most important thing in the life of the follower of Jesus. They are very important but they’re not the most important thing in life.
Think of it this way. Jesus very much is the only way to heaven. But the local church is not the only way to Jesus. We can argue whether this local expression of church is better than another local expression of church, but that’s not the point. The point is – can someone access knowledge of salvation without connecting to a local expression of the church? Short answer: yes absolutely they can and often do.
I’m a picture guy, so indulge me for a minute. Consider a freeway system as a mental picture. A large freeway with on ramps all over the place. Now this analogy will break down because that’s what analogies do, but stick with me for a little bit. I live outside of Columbus, OH and often travel to Cleveland. There is one major freeway that connects these two bigger cities. Let’s pretend that freeway as the only way to Cleveland. Now that same freeway that connects Columbus to Cleveland has many entry points. We call those on ramps. That means that even though this one major freeway connects Columbus to Cleveland, you don’t have to get on the freeway in Columbus in order to make it to Cleveland. You can enter in Sunbury, Mt. Gilead, Mansfield, or Ashland to name a few.
It’s the same with Jesus and Salvation. Jesus is the only road that will take us to salvation. Nothing else will get us there. But there are multiple ramps that will get us onto the roadway of Jesus. The local church is one major ramp that leads many to a place where they can get to know Jesus and understand salvation. But there are many people in the world who will never set foot in an institutional church who we’ll see in eternity.
Church is massively important to the ongoing growth of the follower of Jesus. But it’s not the only way that someone can come to know and grow in Jesus. The challenge of the local church is to find creative ways, in addition to Sunday morning worship, that they can use to connect their community to the one way road of Jesus that leads to salvation.
So there you have it, there is one way to heaven but there’s not just one way to Jesus.