Here’s a beautiful description from Jared Wilson’s book The Pastor’s Justification on what a church with a culture of grace looks like:
I remind myself and my church often that a message of grace may attract people, but a culture of grace will keep them. They want to know—we want to know, the Lord wants to know—that what is being preached has sunk down through the hardness of our skulls and entered the bloodstream. That we are not puffed up with our spiritual knowledge but humbled by it and animated by it. Have we taken the message of the grace of God in Jesus Christ and taken it to heart? Have we, all of us, clothed ourselves with humility?
And when others catch glimpses, the surprise is telling. Is it too good to be true? As more people testify to the kindness of God in their lives and drop the pretense of righteousness by moral fortitude, as sins are confessed and covered with love, as pastors and laymen alike humble themselves and serve and exemplify with their hands and eyes what they preach with their mouths, the aroma of freedom wafts through the place. Messy people own their stuff. “Is that allowed?” timid souls venture. And it is. Sinners repent into the safety of the gospel. “They can do that here?” People have the freedom to question leaders, disagree with the pastor, and hold opposing views with each other, without distrust or rancor. “They can do that here?”
A culture of grace oxygenates the air. Watch people stand a little taller, breathe more deeply, feel free to be more themselves. My friend Ray Ortlund says, “I’ve never met a man who felt too forgiven, too free.” Grace is that kind of welcome (Luke 15:20). It’s the run-to-the-prodigal-while-he’s-still-far-off kind of welcome. It’s the “inhabitants of highways and hedges are welcome” kind of welcome (Luke 14:23). It’s the “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” kind of welcome (Matt. 11:28). It’s the space to be broken kind of welcome. It’s the “we love you as you are, but we love you too much to want you to stay there” kind of welcome.
May the Lord fill the nations with this sort of church that breathes in and lives out the grace of Christ!