Church. Just hearing or seeing the word stirs up so many different thoughts and emotions in people doesn’t it? Everyone seems to have a story about the church to tell—I know I do! And my guess is that you do, too.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the church and not just because I’m a pastor. It’s true that I have a front row seat to much of what happens within our local church community (the good and the bad). But you don’t have to be a pastor to hear about church-related discourse—all you have to do is turn on the television, go online or listen to the radio. Church is a hot topic and everyone is talking about it.
So, I’ve decided to join the conversation on the church and begin a blog series that I’m calling One Another. This series will be a response to the following:
My own journey with the church
In my life, I have seen and experienced much of the best and worst of the people of God. Like many of you, I have been hurt by the words and actions of church leaders and others within the church. For a while, I allowed these things to be my excuse for not being a part of a church. I felt like they owed me an apology and I was set on waiting until they gave me one. I actually believed I was doing the church some kind of favor by standing apart from it, like I was teaching them a lesson. My attitude was I don’t need them, but the truth was, I couldn’t have been more wrong. God graciously showed me my own lack of understanding, and the bitterness and unforgiveness that plagued my heart. Then, He did the unimaginable—He not only led me to repentance, but to becoming a full-time servant of His church.
How the media views the church
The Church is all over the media these days. But when is the last time you read or heard a public media outlet report something positive about the church? You probably don’t remember one, because it rarely ever happens. All you tend to hear about is the failures and shortcomings of the church, with a lot of attention paid to extremist communities like Westboro Baptist Church. What you don’t hear are the stories about all the many ways the church loves and serves and blesses people all over the world day in and day out. My guess is that all this negative coverage has not only affected how non-Christians view the church, but how we see one another within the church.
What I see from Christians online
Probably the most troubling thing for me lately as a Christian is all the ways I see and hear Christians talking about one another. Pretty much every day (if not multiple times throughout the day) I see the posts or comments made by Christians on social media outlets aimed at other Christians that make me sad and, if I’m honest, a little bit pissed off, too.
The Bible calls us brothers and sisters, which is to say that we are family. But based on what I’ve seen, we’re more like the most dysfunctional family in the world—thin-skinned rivals with little humility, grace and love for one another and an over-abundance of arrogance, criticism and judgment.
We quickly take shots at one another, step on one another, and tear one-another down, and to make things worse, we do most of it in public forums!
To me, it seems like we are trying so hard to prove ourselves to non-Christians (at least with our words), working hard to earn their acceptance by convincing them that we are a whole lot better and more loving and good and gracious and intelligent than the rest of our brothers and sisters.
And this is the church—pretty awesome huh?
For all of its flaws, imperfections and failures, here’s what I know about the church: It is the Bride of Christ! Jesus actually calls this crazy, imperfect group of people His Bride, which is to say that He loves His church (us!) a whole lot. I can’t imagine that Jesus takes very lightly the way we treat and talk about His Bride, and I don’t know many husbands who would stand for it either.
As Texas pastor Matt Chandler said, “The church is not an institution for perfect people. It is a sanctuary for sinners saved by grace, a nursery for God"s sweet children to be nurtured and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ"s sheep, the home for Christ"s family. The church is the dearest place on earth.”
The church is that place where God molds us and shapes us and transforms us together—with one another and through one another—into all that He desires for us to be for His glory!
In the weeks and months to come, I am going to share about us, the church, by looking at the 59 different times the New Testament speaks of our relationship with “one another” as the family of God.
Here’s my prayer: that the Word of God would speak to each reader’s heart and that the Holy Spirit ministers truth to every spirit, in a powerful way that leads us toward the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:22-23:
May it be so!