“I have powerful and tender feelings for Christ’s broken church, wobbling along these 2000 years, still bumbling and stumbling and confessing and promising to do better. What a silly bunch of dreamers we are. Ridiculous, really. We stand together in our collective absurdity, somehow managing to catch – in the rich depth of our liturgy – truths that are beyond our understanding but accessible to our simple hearts.”
– Gordon Atkinson (Author of “The Tertium Squid” Blog)
There’s an old joke I’ve heard many times in church and that it goes something like this. A man goes up to the pastor of a Church with a check list and asks him all sorts of questions. He asks about the sermon style and length, the childcare available, the friendliness of the congregation, the music style, the version of the Bible used, whether there are pews or chairs, and so on and so forth. After about the tenth or so question the pastor asks what this is all about. The man tells him that he is new to the area and wants to find the perfect church. Jokingly the pastor replies “Son there’s no such thing as a perfect church, and if you find one don’t join it cause you’ll screw it up.”
It’s an old cheesy joke, but the point is pretty clear. Churches are people and people are messed up. Coming from a person in career ministry I know better than most people that church life takes patience, people skills, and a thick skin. You will never please everyone and you will get yelled out, talked about, and worn out if you don’t learn quickly to love very broken people.
The number one complaint I hear from people who don’t want to go to church is that the church is full of hypocrites. What I don’t understand is what exactly people were expecting?
No where in Christianity will you find the idea that the Church is perfect, or anything more than a bunch of broken people clinging to a savior. We suck at Christianity, and honestly we are always going to suck at it. That’s kind of the reason we need Jesus. You don’t go to a hospital and complain about all the sick people, so why would you go to a church and complain about hypocrites. I’m a sinner saved by grace who still falls into sin on a daily basis, I’m a hypocrite. This isn’t me justifying my sin, but admitting that I need a savior and I need grace and mercy…. which is like Christianity 101.
We aren’t perfect people, if we were we wouldn’t be Christians because we wouldn’t need Jesus. What we are is a body of sinful souls who have found forgiveness. We are nothing but thirsty people in a desert who found water and want to share it with the world. Every single Christian you will ever meet is deeply flawed. Don’t believe me, spend a significant amount of time with anyone and see how long their perfect persona lasts. We are all seeking righteousness and trying to do better, but if perfection is what you are looking for we can’t give you that, at least not on this side of eternity.
What I can offer you, (and what any Church body should offer you) is a family. It’s a broken family that doesn’t always get along, but a family none the less. It’s a brotherhood of believers who are trying to make it through this crazy game of life, who realize we all screw up, and who hopefully will be there to pick you up when you fall and help point you back to the one who loves to forgive sinners.
The church is a place where broken people get to come and find love and forgiveness. The Church is a place where sinners help each other find the one who can make them clean again and use them to do amazing things. The church is a diverse body that is all united by one love for a God who first loved us.
I’ve heard amazing stories about people who, when their life fell apart, had a church family to catch them when they fall. I’ve seen a community of believers come together to support brothers and sisters in amazing ways though sickness, death, financial struggles, marital problems, and all the ups and downs life offers us. I’ve seen amazing discipleship and real brotherhood and sisterhood that strengthens and bonds. I’ve seen wonderful things come form a church that truly cares. I sincerely hope this is your Church experience.
Unfortunately I’ve also seen churches that fail to be churches when there members are in need. I’ve seen people shunned from churches because of sins that were brought out in the open and I’ve seen members up and leave over disputes they didn’t care to resolve in the church. If this sounds more like your church than the one I described earlier then here is my advice, I want you to be the church member you wish everyone else was. I want you to be the supportive, positive, encouraging, and loving brother you want to see in the church. We have too many dead and dying churches that are abandoned by people who want something better. You won’t find a perfect church, but you can work at building up the one you are currently at.
Look, we aren’t going to get this Christianity thing down perfect any time soon. Luckily God is patient with us, slow to anger, and quick to forgive. Perhaps we could adopt a similar attitude towards our brothers and sisters?
My challenge for you is to learn to love the church. Love the sinner, love the hypocrite, and love the broken person. Jesus loved you although you were all three, why can’t we try a little harder to do the same for our brothers and sisters.
Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.
– 2 Corinthians 2:5-8
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
– Galatians 6:1-2
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
– Ephesians 4:31-32
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
– 1 Peter 2:9-10
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
– Colossians 3:14-16
No church is going to live up to the above commands perfectly, and neither will you, but that’s ok. Jesus is a friend of sinners and hypocrites are just the type of people he wants to see in church. Christ didn’t take the sins of the world on himself so that he could start a church of perfect little angels on earth. He knew full well that his Church was going to be made up of hypocrites, liars, thieves, perverts, drunkards, slandering, selfish people who failed to keep his commands. He knew full well that his church would be far from perfect:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
– Mark 2:17
And though we do tend to do a horrible job of representing Christ he still loves us. A trend that bothers me in modern-day Christianity is the idea that we don’t need the Church or “Organized Religion” as it is so often called. I really don’t believe you can love Jesus and hate his Church. If you can’t stand hypocrisy, and sinners make you cringe, I’d first suggest you take some time to examine yourself and make sure you aren’t a pot calling the kettle black. Next I’d suggest you try to look at this rag-tag bunch of misfits we call the Christian church in a different light. Because whether or not you want to claim it, if you are a believer you are a part of the church.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
– 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.