Last week, I began a discussion about why people are leaving the organized church for various reasons, often saying that the church is no longer practicing the New Testament approach to “doing church.”
Today and next week, I would like to continue this discussion in a more positive tone, asking with this statement: Maybe what bothers you about church should actually amaze you.
I understand that the idea of the church being imperfect makes some people despair. But rather than making us despair, the fact that Jesus started the church with imperfect people should make us marvel at God’s incredible grace. That God would use ordinary, broken human beings as vessels of his grace, and delight in it is awe-inspiring. He’s proud of how his grace is beating through your imperfect-but-redeemed life and through the church (have you ever read Ephesians 3: 10-11?).
The idea that God would use you and me is pretty amazing, especially if we consider He had other options. He could have spoken to the world directly, but instead chose to use broken people to showcase his grace to a world in need of redemption.
Now for sure, community is messy. People sin. Leaders are sinful. Most of the New Testament is not a story of an idealized church where everything worked perfectly all the time (just read 1 Corinthians any time you’re frustrated with church). Most of the New Testament is a story of Jesus using his followers to spread his love in spite of themselves and as they overcome obstacle after obstacle.
The fact that Christ uses flawed people to accomplish his work on earth is actually a sign of his grace, not a sign of his absence. The church’s story, as twisted as it gets at times, is a beautiful story of God’s grace, God’s power and God’s redemption. So, by the way, is your life, which reflects the story of the church more than you would want to admit. The church gives the world a front row seat to the grace of God.
People criticize the church today as being consumeristic. And to some extent, churches cater to consumerism—often to our detriment. I agree that consumerism is a problem for Christianity.
But ironically, much of the dialogue about why people are done with church pushes people deeper into Christian consumerism than it pushes them into deeper discipleship: Here I am, all alone, worshipping God on my schedule when it’s convenient for me. Listening to a podcast of your favorite preacher while you’re at the gym or on the back deck and pushing three of your favorite worship songs through your ear buds does not make you a more passionate Christ follower. It usually makes you a less effective one.
Disconnecting yourself from community is actually less faithful than connecting yourself to a flawed community. If you think the church today isn’t enough (and arguably, we need to reform it), then do what the early Christians did. Be willing to lose your job, your home, your family and even your life because you follow Jesus. Then you’ll be more authentic.
There’s lots more to say, stay tuned next week.