Getting Real about Church

Remember the refrain from this 80’s rock song? “Should I stay or should I go?”

That seems to be a question that many church goers are asking themselves these days.

Transitioning from church to church is on the rise.

I think it has something to do with our culture.

We are always looking for the next best thing.

We’re quick to change out our mobile carrier, our cable company or our pizza place.

People change jobs like they change their clothes.

We move from residence to residence at a rate that would shock our great-grandparents who might have lived in only one house from marriage to the grave.

And, yes, people are moving from church to church with startingly regularity.

And can we really blame anyone with all the different varieties of churches to choose from?

Perhaps we’ve even wondered, “Maybe the grass is a bit greener over at First Church…”

Sometimes a move is necessary.

Core doctrine has been jettisoned. Sin has overtaken the leadership. Or conflict has gone too deep.

But my fear is that the reason that a lot of people are playing “revolving church” is because many of us have never learned how to carry out a long-term church relationship.

Many of us have a tendency to idealize church.

But when we get in the midst of sinners (and all their accompanying faults), we become disappointed by reality.

Some people approach the church with the mindset of a consumer.

They don’t concern themselves with how they can serve, but primarily with how they can be served.

Which makes for a pretty shallow church life.

Make no mistake, there are no perfect churches.

They all have strengths. And they all have plenty of weaknesses.

There are all sorts of reasons to complain about the church in a world where we expect excellence, competence and results.

That’s why I like what Frederick Von Hugel said about church:

The institution of church is like the bark on a tree. There’s no life in the bark; it’s dead wood. But it protects the life of the tree within. The tree grows and grows, but if you take off the bark, the tree will die. All the authority structures we put in place in our churches – yes even the dreaded committees – can and do serve as protection for the life of the church.

The church is like no other institution.

It has a great leader (Jesus) and is made up with a whole bunch of fallible followers.

It’s not meant to be like a business or a corporation.

We aren’t driven to produce as much as we are called to be faithful.

Bill Hull, in the book Choose the Life reminds us how ordinary the church can be:

Golfers use the term “grinding” to describe their commitment to keep playing even when they aren’t shooting well. Some even call it “the glory of the grind.” Most church ministry is like a round of golf. You start the round with stars in your eyes, full of hope. You hit a couple good shots and you feel great. But then you hit a few freaky shots. You follow a birdie with a score so high a name doesn’t exist for it. 

To be a good golfer or a growing church, you must accept your mistakes and bad shots, put them behind you and live in the moment. You need qualities like patience and perseverance to enjoy the highs and endure the grinding lows. Church will test us because most of it is very ordinary, slow work, often without immediate rewards. The formation of disciples into being more like Jesus takes place gradually and often unnoticeably. The effect is neither rapid or magical.

So, disciples must learn to enjoy the journey – the entire experience – and keep it all in perspective.

We live in a time where we are told that bigger is better and flashier is favored.

But in the long run, these things have very little to do with the work of church and discipleship.

If God grants an overflow, great.

But any church that is being faithful to teach the Word, pray, fellowship, serve and share Christ is ringing the bell.





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