The church can be a struggle. I’ve had my fair share of struggles at the church My family and I have been attending for 10+ years; however, those are typically centered around my preferences and misunderstandings. No church is perfect. That’s not an excuse, but a reality.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us…”
It seems that there will never be a shortage of complaints to have about something or someone. Are you the same as me, that once I start complaining, I get tunnel vision for everything that’s wrong about anything? “Be positive!” sounds trite and Pollyana-esque, but there is a hint of truth to that. As Christians, even though our sins have been paid for in Christ, much sin is still present in our lives. Sometimes we have to search with squinted eyes to see where God is at work in each other. At face value, I’m a giant mess. At face value, the church can look like a giant mess. In the midst of the mess, God is weaving something beautiful.
So as I’ve been contemplating about my church, I came up with 5 reasons why I’m still there. Every member does not succeed or fail at each of these every time across every year, but the mere presence of some things and absence of others is reason to believe God is at work.
1. The church doesn’t try to impress me.
From the first day we showed up until now, I have never felt like I was going to a show. It has never been flashy or over the top. There has never been a music minister leading a concert and soaking up the praise like we were all there to see him. Whether it’s the singing, instruments, preaching, kids ministry, whatever… I have never felt that the church was trying to be anything other than it was – beggar’s who have found bread trying to tell other beggars where we found bread. We get to hear the good news of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in our songs and sermons and lives.
2. The church has allowed me to struggle.
Sometimes I have merely been moody, and other times I’ve gone on the proverbial warpath. I have shown up to small group meetings and made them miserable. I’ve made people to feel bad on purpose. I’ve let friends struggle and refused to help them. I’m a mess even below face value. A ragamuffin, really. I’ve been depressed, confused, demanding, accusatory, and unhealthily speculative. In the middle of my mess, I’ve been allowed to struggle and question and wonder what the heck was going on. While there have been instances of guys trying to fix me (I hate that, and I do that!), I have been given room to not have it all figured out.
3. The church has forced me to think, reason, and adapt to situations and people I’m uncomfortable with.
If you consider what the gospel is and how it crosses all boundaries of class, race, status, and more, there is a lot of diversity within the church. Men and women come from all different backgrounds bringing with them all different kinds of ideas. That is an unavoidable opportunity for friction. We all come from different backgrounds and upbringings. From there, we all bring our own unique baggage, burdens, and brilliance. Everyone in the church is united in Christ, but sometimes Christ is the only thing that unites us. This is something that has had a profound effect on me. Through the church, God is growing and changing and loving his people VIA his people. That is a mind load to think about.
4. The church has allowed me to mourn.
My family has seen broken bodies and crooked minds. From miscarriages to chronic health conditions, we have felt the force of our fallen humanity. We have felt our bodies betray us. A lot of time, there is nothing that can be done. It can’t be fixed or made better or put back together. It just sucks, and that’s it. We have had instances of others just mourning with us. People who will be sad for you and with you is a great mercy.
5. The church is dynamic, not stagnant.
Decisions have to be made. Directions have to be taken. Some of those have been good, and others not so much. There has seemed to me the ever present question of how can we grow together and with God better? How can we do our ministry better? What changes can we make? Where do we need to adapt, make corrections, reinforce what is working, and do things with more transparency? We may miss the mark, but I am encouraged that the church is not ceasing to aim.
Like it not, we need each other. We are frail and fragile and failing and frustrated. We need to remind each other of the central backbone that carries each of these reasons why I still believe in going to my church: The Lord is at hand. He is on the move. He is at work. One day, we will see the beautiful tapestry he is weaving of this mess of people. One day, we will sit at the his table and eat and drink and tell the old tales of waiting for his kingdom. Be encouraged. Love your church, even if you aren’t loving it well. We will spend eternity together. We must remind each other that there is hope in our hurting. The dawn is coming. The Lord is at hand.
“What is the story of my priesthood? It is the story of an unfaithful person through whom God continues to work!” ~ Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
(While I did not write this as an advertisement for my church but as an encouragement to really seek and contemplate and consider where the Lord is at hand in your own church… you can read more about where we attend by visiting http://www.rgcsc.org.)