Many moons ago I was wounded deeply through a less-than-perfect church experience.
I went into it a bit naive. (okay, maybe more than a bit)
I thought all Christians were about the Gospel.
I thought a church that framed itself around the foundation of the Word and the practices of Acts 2:42-27 ought to be a safe place to grow, serve and connect.
But I learned otherwise.
This doesn’t mean that everyone in that church was bad. There were many people who loved the Lord and served Him with gladness.
But, there was enough leaven in the loaf to leave a lot of well-intentioned people feeling spiritually bruised and broken.
Through the years I’ve learned that injurious churches are not that uncommon.
Pride, greed, ego, lust and sloth have a way of taking God’s bride and sullying her reputation.
Let’s just say that, sadly, I’ve become less naive.
And yet, I am still plugged into church.
So why would I continue in on an institution that often reveals such glaring faults?
Why not pursue a “just me and God” approach to my Christianity?
Why not hang out with some other Christians time to time and call it church?
Here’s why: because God instituted the church.
And He calls her his bride.
“What God has put together, let no man separate.”
Divorcing the church isn’t an option.
Not that I haven’t been tempted.
But I know God has a passion for the collection of stumbling sinners He refers to as His church.
That’s why so much of the New Testament is devoted in trying to help Christians figure out how to live together in biblical community.
Have you noticed that almost every epistle is written to address problems taking place in the church?
In the case of the church at Corinth, the issues were so numerous that the congregation could be described as having more in common with a psychotic circus than a functional church.
And yet, when Paul sent off his exhortational missive to this troubled church, he didn’t encourage them to close their doors and disband their fellowship.
In fact, I’m always a bit amazed (and at the same time befuddled) by what he wrote in the opening verses of the letter:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)
Paul looked at this bunch of spiritual knuckleheads and saw their potential.
Though their faults were many, the blameless One who serves as the head of the church would see them through.
They were worthy of many rebukes (which Paul would supply), but Jesus never took down their shingle.
In a nutshell, I can’t give up on church because Jesus refuses to.
The church is never perfect here on earth. But the church serves a perfect Savior who, if we allow, will bring us to a place of deeper maturity and greater effectiveness.
Because of my experiences, I believe I am a little bit wiser when it comes to church involvement.
But may the personal hurts I’ve incurred at the hands of my fellow sinners never disengage me from God’s primary tool for reaching the world for Jesus.
My job is to try to make the church better. Not bury it.