Can We Love Jesus, While ‘Trash-Talking’ the Local Church?

In the last couple of weeks several readers of my blogs have discussed on how they have felt about two of my posting on the status of the church and on religion. One follower from Facebook forwarded me this article written by Andrew Sullivan from NEWSWEEK “Forget The Church, Follow Jesus.” after they had read post 1 & post 2. Honestly I had to read this twice to take it all in! Then I realized that I’ve noticed there has been a lot of conversation in the media i.e. (Facebook, Twitter, TBN, & here on WordPress & other blog sites) lately that goes something like this, “People believe in Jesus but not the church.”

Newsweek Magazine picked up on this with an article entitled, “Forget The Church, Follow Jesus.”  There are some good comments in this article but the article in itself is not really the issue.  It’s the overall ‘vibe’ of the public conversation about the local church.  There are many assessments and assumptions made that are just not accurate nor are they fair. When people start talking trash about the church – I get protective – not defensive, protective.  I want to protect the reputation of church as I would want to protect the perception about a friend who is being criticized about their attitudes, actions or motivations.

I want to protect how she’s treated. People can ‘think’ whatever they want, but to speak those opinions or judgments out loud is wrong because they can be damaging and add to an opinion that is inaccurate. Pastors for years, have heard comments from people like, “I love Jesus, I just don’t like the church.”

Some thoughts to consider…

1. We have to recognize that Jesus loves the church.
When giving instructions about marriage in Ephesians 5, Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus loves the church, laid down His life for her, cleansed her, cares for her and becomes one with her. Then Paul says husbands should do the same for their wife.

How do we find ourselves so free to criticize or minimize the significance of the church?

I believe if you love Jesus, you must love whom He loves. He loves the lost, He loves the hurting, He loves those who follow Him and He loves the church.

2.  The “local church” is the hope of the world.
It carries no weight to say ‘I love the global church’ but have no commitment or dedication to a local church. It’s like someone saying they play professional basketball but they are just not part of any one particular team. It makes no sense.

God plans to use the church to reveal His awesome plan to humanity.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,Ephesians 3:7-12.

Jesus said, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

The challenge is this:
As believers, we have to be careful not to let our criticisms against churches add to the public dismissal of church’s significance or relevance.

Criticisms from one church leader against other churches or leaders because of their style, method, and lack of emphasis on topics important to the critic often diminish the authenticity of the accused church and the church as a whole.

In an interview with Bono of u2, I read him accuse “the church” of neglecting the poor. It was said as if this were an understood fact. While I commend Bono for his humanitarian efforts, it does sound a bit arrogant on his part to make a public judgment on that level. I don’t know where he has attended church.  Perhaps he has had some negative experiences. I don’t know if he gives any financial support to churches that he has a connection with so they can actually help the poor.

But what I do know is, that the churches I know and the pastors I associate with are heavily invested in giving to the poor, orphans and widows, HIV Aids victims, giving aid to the homeless and responding to world and community crisis. So I reject these assumptions and assessments of “the church” that are expressed, not just by Bono but others. One only needs to mention one church – Salvation Army – to offer an exception to this misguided opinion.

3.  The church is made up of people.
Flawed people. People like you and me are in the church. I have made mistakes and you have made mistakes. This reality makes it possible for others (also flawed) to join us. As a minister, I have made mistakes in trying to lead in my our ministry. The church is an organization of imperfect people who are accepting of other imperfect people who begin to understand they have a purpose, and together, try to make a difference in the world.

4.  People hurt people.
“The church really hurt me.” There is no such thing as the church hurting someone.

It’s like saying:
“The bank really hurt me.”
“Restaurants have wounded me.”
“The gym hurt my feelings.”

It is not the entities or organizations that have hurt us – it’s the people in them. The people who work in restaurants have let me down. I’ve managed to find others places to eat.  There are people who workout at my gym that could very well be hypocrites. I may be judging others here but I still go and workout. If you have been hurt, violated or abused in a church – I want to say to you sincerely, “I am so sorry for your pain. I’m sorry you have experienced that.”

I know that pain myself. I’ve experienced many difficulties, betrayals and struggles in a church. I’ve probably been the offending party in a few unfortunate situations. But still I need to go, grow, serve, worship and build God’s house. Regardless of the struggles or hypocrisies of humanity. I need to be in my Father’s church.

I urge you to forgive those people who you may have met in a church, whether a leader or a member so that you can continue to grow in your faith. In an effort to take your forgiveness to a deeper place – try church again. Try a different church, a new church; there are many ‘life-giving’ churches.

5.  There is No “Perfect Church”
Not the one you attend. Not the one I mistier in. We are not reviewing movies here. It’s God’s people. All churches need to have some accountability. We need to be confident enough to hear the criticisms and pull out what truths we can find to help us. We need to look at our weaknesses and try to improve. Christian churches do need to hold strong to the core beliefs of the scriptural foundation of our faith.

However, because you see a flaw in a church you don’t approve of – it is not necessary to add your voice to the growing sound of church bashing that is shaping a growing prejudice against the church of Jesus Christ as irrelevant, hypocritical or insignificant.

Here’s what you CAN do:

  • Attend a local church. Be an active part of the solutions not a vocal attack of the uninformed.
  • Pray for the local church. Pray with humility, honor and faith.  Remember who you are talking to – He loves the church.
  • Serve. Get involved. Most pastors would love to have someone in their local church who would help serve or lead a ministry that reaches out and helps people in the community.
  • Give. Help support the efforts of the church. Many churches cannot do what they desire to do because people are so much freer with their critiques than their financial support
  • Finally, be the example you would like to see. Get off the bench and get in the game. There’s less complaining on the field. Engage the problem with solutions.

Here is a podcast of Bishop TD Jakes talking on his unconventional approach to spirituality

Religion in America: A Conversation with Bishop T.D. Jakes – Aspen Ideas Festival.

What are your ideas to bring strength to the church?

*Resources: Philip Wagner, http://www.aspenideas.org, Andrew Sullivan

Advertisements

One thought on “Can We Love Jesus, While ‘Trash-Talking’ the Local Church?

  1. Some good points… However, the “Church” Jesus loves is not the “religious organizations” that men build… rather, the Scripture is talking about God’s Family; which is a SPIRITUAL house of LIVING stones, not 1st Assembly of Whatchyamacallit on 3rd and Main Street.

    Jesus loves His body. You correctly and incorrectly said, “the church is made up of people”. You are correct ONLY insofar as you are defining the Lord’s one Spiritual House of Living Stones; i.e. The Family of God. You would not be correct if you meant to suggest that the “church” Jesus loves is that organization made up of people. While it may be true that organizations contain people that Jesus loves, it is not true that the “organization” is the biblical definition of church. Neither can it be thought of as a mediator, for the Scripture teaches that there is only ONE mediator between man and God and that is Christ Jesus.

    As a matter of absolute fact, the word “church” itself is not really even biblical! It is a term that was added hundreds of years after the Scriptures were written. “Church” is not a translation of the Greek word “Ekklesia”, which means “assembly” or “called out ones”, but “church” is from an English word that refers to a building. For a person to confess they follow Jesus but not the church, is not error. They are, in all actuality, confessing that they themselves are part of the Lord’s Spiritual Family… REGARDLESS of the institutions built by men which may or may not be attended.

    I do not discount the reality that some church organizations do good in their communities and that good and godly people sometimes attend them. I believe wholly in religious freedom. But Christ is not the mascot or figurehead of a religion, no matter how many people like to think so. He is GOD and He has a Family (which is His Body). Even Stephen understood that the Lord God is not contained in “church buildings” (i.e. temples) and the people stoned him for shooting down the notion that God lives in temples built with hands. How foolish to think that God is contained in anything built with the hands of men… Such mindsets are, to put it bluntly, the sum total of idolatry. Man makes an image (a “body”) that he believes is fashioned in the image of God and calls that “thing” an assembly (or “church”), yet he does this without any authority of Christ! Christ ONLY calls His people the Church. So for men to call their organizations “churches” is not only ignorant, but borderline idolatry (in my opinion) because they call something other than the body of Christ itself, the “church”.

    The church is NOT made up of people my friend… The true Church (as Christ himself defined it) IS people!

    This is why those who fail to define terms correctly as the Scripture presents them, also fail to understand those who are done with religion or “the church” as man defines it. Such people see those who follow Jesus but don’t bow to the system of churchianity as being in error, when actually those who are leaving religious systems to follow Jesus are finally truly beginning to see and walk in the truth. These folks, at least very many of them, still find ways to gather together without feeling pigeon-holed into labeling themselves a “church”. When a family gathers around the table, you don’t have to call it “an assembly” for it to really be one. It just IS because THAT is reality and it transpires organically and naturally. There’s nothing fabricated about it. Jesus said that when two or three are together, He would be in their midst. The Church IS people; therefore, regardless of whether or not someone attends a religious organization or edifice that labels itself a “church”, if that person is born again they ARE part of the Family of God; the body of Christ, and… yes (if you must have the term), HIS CHURCH!!!!

    You can absolutely hate church and still be part of the body of Christ. It’s all about how Christ himself defined His body; His “Church” – not how religious thinking men define it.

    Bless you! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s