When I think about the gospel and the church I often think of one of my favorite hymns, How Sweet and Aweful Is the Place. “Aweful” here has the old sense of the word that means inspiring reverential wonder or fear. The church is the place where people are to be brought to reverential wonder or fear of God through the consideration of the God of grace and the grace of God. Take a read through.
How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?
“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.
We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.
We do indeed long to see the churches full of people but not without the pulpits full of Christ. My friend’s experience is a sobering reminder of this truth: An aweful church preaches Christ, and an awful church does not. Even an unchurched guy can see this.