Recently a friend sent me an article of an individual critiquing churches for being more devoted to political agendas than to the word of God. I think my friend was surprised to hear me reply that I agreed with many of the author’s criticisms. I thought he was insightful on some points. Some churches have certainly fallen into this. But I also had to say that I don’t think every church has done that, and my friend and I had a good back and forth on the topic.
A few weeks later, I read a similar critique, but this one was published by a news site that I consider unreliable and believe is advocating an anti-Christian bias. Their critique was that you should have nothing to do with a church. I looked at this critique with different eyes. I felt it was written with the goal to lead people away from church and not meant to be constructive but destructive. Then it hit me, I can’t prove this site does that, but this is exactly what Satan wants to do to God’s people, and it seems to me that he is having great success. I think with the abundance of critiques being written, more professing Christians have adopted a worldly view of the church, and we need to regain a biblical view of it.
The New Testament is not silent about the problems in the church. A good church is not a church without problems but rather a place where problems are being dealt with in a redemptive manner. In the early church there were all kinds of problems: There were quarrels and divisions and judging others. There were even issues at the Lord’s Supper where some ate so much they got drunk and others ate nothing (1 Corinthians 11:21). There was even a man who had married his father’s wife (married his step mother) and was proud of doing so (1 Corinthians 5:1). Unbelievable! The Bible is clear on the problems, but nowhere does it ever give up on the church. God uses the mess of church to work in and through his imperfect people.
Here are a few things to remember about the church.
The glory of the church is seen in the fact that Jesus died for it. He gave himself up for his bride (Eph 5:27). We are celebrating our twenty year anniversary this year. I still remember my wedding day and watching my wife step up to the aisle with her father. She looked amazing in that dress. Her eyes were lit up and smiling from ear to ear. I know my wife is not perfect. You could tell me that day that she was not perfect, and I would agree with you, but you could not tell me she was not beautiful. Those are two ends of the balancing pole that have helped our marriage, realizing each other’s weakness while also seeing the grace of God. As we critique church, we need to make sure we don’t lose the beauty of it. God works in the mess to display his glory and refine his people.
This is amazing to think about. God is putting on display who he is through the way the church works (Ephesians 3:10). It never works perfectly, because it’s full of imperfect people, but it still works to display him! There is something beautiful about bearing with others. There is something wonderful about people confessing where they got things wrong and now see clearly. There is something amazing about people who are so different from one another saying you are my brother or sister, and I will be there for you and let’s link arms to make Jesus known. There is something beautiful about people calling for justice and righteousness and also giving the patience for them to see it clearly.
1 Corinthians 11:19 says “for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” Part of the mess of church is that in the messiness it becomes clear who is genuine and who is not. Who is really committed to Jesus and who is more interested in political parties or their own agendas.
This should raise the question to believers critiquing the church: are you dealing with differences and disappointments in the church in a God-honoring manner or have you turned aside to your own agenda? If you give up on church then you have given up on something Jesus didn’t give up on.
Churches have made mistakes, but that doesn’t mean the church isn’t part of God’s plan, and it doesn’t mean we should give up on it either. I hope more people will begin to reread the Scriptures and reevaluate if they have a biblical or worldly view of the church.