More and more, I see people being disillusioned with the church.
More and more, I see people criticizing the church.
More and more, I see people fed up with the church and walking away.
And I can't say I blame them.
The church has made many promises that haven't been kept. The church has put people on pedestals as moral leaders only to have them be later torn down or fail miserably themselves. The church has said it will love people and then instead responded in hate and judgement. The church was supposed to be so much and has let us down time and time again. The church is supposed to be united and they seem to be nothing but divided.
The way we often see church and the way we SHOULD see church reminds me of two different stories in the Bible. I hope we can move from one portrayal and find ourselves in the other.
In the midst of life and ministry of Jesus he finds himself thrust into a tense situation. It's a crowd of shouting people and in the middle is a woman who has been found guilty (no word on the other half of the guilty party…). She has made a mistake, she has been found in a great sin, and the people are out to put her in her place. They bring Jesus into the conversation (witch hunt) and ask him how to punish this obviously horrible being. Jesus bends down on to the ground, writes in the sand, and changes the conversation completely.
"They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” - John 8:7 NLT
Jesus changes the focus from an obvious crime that no one disputes, to the hearts of all the accusers who also find themselves also sinners desperately in need of grace.
I fear that often we put the church in the middle of the circle and we stand around shouting our judgements. We put pastors, we put elders, we put worship leaders, youth pastors, volunteers and the WHOLE THING TOGETHER in the middle and we shout and we judge and we yell and we charge guiltiness.
Here is the kicker. WE ARE'NT WRONG IN OUR JUDGEMENTS.
They DID do the thing. They DID forget the thing. They DID make that mistake. They DID let us down.
We aren't wrong. They are guilty.
The problem isn't that they are guilty the problem is that the condemnation and proclamation of judgement doesn't solve ANYTHING.
And if they are guiltly so are we. Maybe not in THAT WAY or of THAT THING, but we are all guilty.
We have ALLLLLLLL fallen short of the glory of God. Even me and even you.
So why do we make this circle? Why do we condemn? Well as I said there has been a mistake. Many mistakes actually.
But what if we did something different? What if we changed the story? Changed the conversation just like Jesus did on that dusty day.
In the first church as recoded in Acts, the new believers were trying to begin to learn what it meant to be church they did just that, they learned to BE the church and they learned TOGETHER.
" All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved." -Acts 2:42-47
The early church got something right. They knew church was created TOGETHER. Was it perfect? OF COURSE NOT! But you don't hear about it because that wasn't the focus. They were focused on making Jesus known and helping others to do the same.
And this is why I still believe in church. I believe in the church because Jesus spoke about it. I believe in the church because the Bible records its success. I believe in the church because we are all still DESPERATELY in need of the body of Jesus Christ alive on the earth.
The church is STILL God's method of spreading His name and love throughout the world. The church is still MY method of spreading Jesus' name and love throughout the world. The church needs to be YOUR method of spreading Jesus' name and love throughout the world.
Is it broken? Yes. Are you broken? Yes. Is it STILL the way we can see God living among us and draw others to know this HOPE and LOVE we have found? Yes. Don't give up. Believe in the Church.