Is there hope for this thing?

One thing I like to think about myself is that I’m a fairly optimistic guy.  So take the following comments in that light.  The question Du Jour (for me) is: “Is there hope for this thing called The Church?”  Here’s what makes me ask the question.  In The Church (speaking of the church everywhere) I have run into some of the most troubling people I’ve ever met.  Some quick words that come to mind are: Judgmental, hypocritical, hyper-sensitive, and above all: LEGALISTIC. 

It is in The Church where I have found the greatest betrayals, hurtful people, and “friends” who will abandon at the first sign of anything about you they don’t like.  (usually because they don’t really have a clue, but assume and judge)  Also in the church, we tend to find cult-like subcultures that we might describe more innoxiously as Cliques.  Whatever we choose to call them, they are small groups of people who rather than open their arms to outsiders, spend much more time making people feel like outsiders.

Our programs and dogmas have become more important than showing people the love of the Savior.  Our doctrines (while very important) have become more important than keeping the dialogue open with people of opposing viewpoints.  Our dogmatic statments have become more important than The Word.  Our actions have become more important than our attitudes.  We have scared more people away from God than we’ve drawn in.  And we’ve scarred more than we’ve healed.  And if we don’t like you, WE ATTACK YOU!  And we justify it by using words like “hypocrite” and “sinner”.  This all seems so backwards to me.  None of this seems to me to follow the example set by Jesus Christ.

So back to my original question: Is there hope for this thing?  After falling victim myself many years ago to “pastors” who have taken advantage and openly lied, I once thought there was no hope.  After all, if we can’t trust pastors to be perfect people, then who can we trust?  As a pastor myself, I have often wondered if it’s worth it because it’s been in the church where I have come under the most unfair judgment and criticism.  InThe Church, ignorance and hostility seem to rule, while patience, understanding, and open communication seem to be all but completely absent.  So is there hope for this thing?  I mean, it all seems pretty bad.

Well as negative as all of the above sounds, I want to go on record and say “Yes, there is hope”.  There ishope for The Church.  But I’m not arrogant enough to believe I’ll be the one to fix it.  I believe that’s Jesus’ job.  However, I do believe that I have the responsibilty to do my part to do this whole church thing right.  And so do we all.  It seems to me that to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” doesn’t make a lot of sense if we believe Jesus wants this thing to exist and function for His sake.  And we often try different “models” of church to try to do it better, but in the end, I don’t believe models are the answer either.  I don’t think any church model is the problem.  The problem is the overall mindset of her people, not her particular methodology or programming.  The problem is a top-down problem, starting with leadership that forgets what the biblical mandate is and gets all caught up in trying to further The Church rather than the cause of Christ.

Another problem is that we don’t all agree on what the mandate is.  Some say it’s fellowship, some say it’s discipleship, some say it’s corporate worship, some say it’s evangelism, other say it’s all of the above.  And we criticize each other’s churches if we don’t agree.  This must all frustrate God.  I know it frustrates me.

Look, I’ll say this as plainly as I can to The Church.  It’s time to grow up and act like adults.  God has called us to an important mission encompassing many important pieces of that mission.  Some of us are better at certain parts of the mission than others.  So we focus on what we can be passionate about.  My church may be more evangelistic than yours, but I don’t care.  Whether I like you or not, Jesus said I need you…therefore I won’t judge you.  We are all supposed to be one body and the hand cannot say to the foot “I have no need of you”.  However as ONE body, we must also speak up in love and remind each other than we can’t go on hurting people, scaring them away, scarring them, and making them feel unworthy to receive the love of The Church and ostensibly the love of Christ.

At Refuge, we’ll make some mistakes.  We’ll not do everything the way you think we should.  And we may not prioritize everything the way you would.  But rather than give up on us or The Church because of this, how about a change of attitude?  That’s what I’m trying to do for myself.  I’m choosing to change my attitude and have hope for The Church rather than give up on it.  I am willing to accept the imperfection that comes with an organism comprised of flawed humans and just do my best to work with it.  I do this because whether or not I particularly like the church, it’s God’s thing (as far as I can discern from The Word).

In my church, we have our issues.  We’ve had plenty of people who have filtered through our church who have just plain sucked.  And it would be very easy for me to wanna toss out the whole thing.   But then I’m reminded from time to time that there are many people who have come into a relationship with The Savior because our church exists.  I recall often that because we are able to band together, we’re able to affect more lives for God than we could do without our combined resources.  Our BROKEN Campaign is a perfect example.  Because we were able to band together, we were able to pay someone’s mortgage so that they could stay in their home.  I couldn’t have done this by myself, so I’m grateful that we had a church of people who could make this happen.  I’m grateful for a place to go each week to worship with people who love The Savior.  I’m grateful for the few important relationships in my life that have come about because of The Church.  Though betrayal is more common than loyalty in The Church, I cannot deny that I have also found some of my best friends within it’s borders.

So as for me, I do believe there’s hope for The Church.  And I think The Church is an important part of God’s plan for the redemption and encouragement of mankind.  And I realize today that all I can do is my best to domy part to fulfill the mission.  I won’t always get it right.  I will make mistakes.  At times, my church will just plain suck.  I will dissapoint people and people will dissapoint me.  You won’t always agree with me and I won’t always agree with you.  My priorities won’t always be yours and yours won’t always be mine.  I may not like something you do and you may not like something I do.  To all of this I say a big SO WHAT!!!  Whether we like it or not, we’re still the church.  You’re still the hand and I’m the foot…etc.  So how about a little more patience, understanding, oh yeah… and love.  I’m sorry if I don’t always agree with you or make mistakes.  All I can say is I’m doing my best and still need you on my team whether I like you or not.  If we can “get over it” and work together, I bet we can do more for the cause of Christ than we can do alone.

One last thought.  I realize there are gonna be times when we can’t work together, when our disagreements are so far apart that we don’t feel we can support each other’s work in good conscience.  Hey, that’s ok I guess.  But maybe, just maybe we can find a way to humbly deal with each other in the process and again, do more to advance the cause of Christ than tear it down with our resentments.  I’m not totally sure how to really do that because I have yet to see a totally healthy example of that proposition.  But I would absolutely love to see it someday.  And I believe there is hope for it to happen, because I believe there is hope for The Church.