This chip of mine has appeared and grown as negative voices have arisen about "the Church". Many of the complaints are justified, lots of the criticisms are valid, and it all goes a little like this:
The Church is too show-y, it isn't accepting enough, its building is too expensive, its building is too far away, the facility is gross and is falling to pieces, the parking is horrendous is this area, the people seem so fake and happy, the people are too selfish, its music is too loud, the music is so out-dated, the music isn't "my type", its seats are too comfortable, the pews are too old, its youth ministry is too shallow, the messages are too strong, the messages are boring, its biblical foundations are too outdated, it is too culturally white, it is too culturally black, it is too focused on marriage and family, it's too focused on youth, it's too focused on political issues, it's too watered-down, it needs more prayer, it should help the poor more, it ought to be more humble, more transparent, and for goodness sake, can't the Church help me with my problems?
I don't know, I just think sometimes we forget that when we talk about Church, we are speaking about something precious to God: we are talking about the Bride of Christ.
When non-Christians or new God-seekers say things like this, I can roll with it. Engaging in critical conversations about the Church with people who don't know God is easier because they aren't yet expected to be the Bride of Christ.
Yes, sometimes the Church has churches in it that are doing a poor job of representing Jesus. If you're in one of those, I hope you can help transform it, and if not I hope you can find a place where people are walking in authentic faith.
But not all churches are like that, and certainly, there are plenty doing amazing things in this world.
Maybe it's my All-American upbringing that makes me lean toward a grass-roots revival, but I really believe that the Church will be a better representation of Christ when we, God's people, are more Christlike. That's no easy process, it looks messy and scary, and so I do understand why we shy away from it.
In fact, I personally find it terrifying, nauseating, and incredibly challenging to try to live and love like Jesus as a part of His body. But here we are, stuck with a God who has posed that as our goal.
So off we go to our local church, to be a part of "the Church".
But we shouldn't go to church to hear a good message, or to find service, outreach, and volunteer opportunities, or to enjoy some music we like, or to see our friends, or to feel encouraged enough to make it through the week. All those things are wonderful benefits of being a part of a local community of believers, but if we only love our local church for what it gives us, we will miss what we are meant to give when we walk through its doors as a part of the Church.
We will forget to give God our worship.
And when we forget to worship, we also fail to remember we are the Church.
The Church isn't a building, a pastoral staff, or a group of people we can label as "them". You are the church. I am the church. We are the church together. When we point a critical finger at the Church, it is really pointing right back at our own lives.
Here's what it takes to make the Church great:
People who are dedicated to living holy lives and working like crazy to build God's kingdom by living sacrificially, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, knowing God's word, loving others more than themselves, and loving God most of all.
That's what the Church needs most, because that's what the world needs most of all: to see the gospel on display.
It is a rare, precious privilege to gather together to worship. I am extremely biased, of course, but I think our local church rocks because the people in it are amazing. I am grateful on Sundays for everyone standing there, showing me in deeper and greater ways what it means to worship and love God.
This Sunday, I hope you go to church. I hope you stand in awe of His greatness. I pray that the love of God transforms you into something new and brilliant. I need you there with me, because together we can really do something incredible...
...together we can be the Church and build God's Kingdom.
Let's go to Church.