No, I did not hiccup as I was calling out for help. It is my illustration of the approach which seems prevalent these days for how people engage with, and find, a church. Churches join bowling alleys, pizza places and coffee shops in people’s penchant for searching reviews before visiting. Yelp is actually one of the rare services which doesn’t allow reviews to be removed, so businesses can’t filter out what they’d rather the consumer not see. It’s like that with church, as well. There is no shortage of reviews about local churches and the Church at large. Now before you make the assumption I want to discredit or discount the negative ones, I’ll be quick to acknowledge there are criticisms of the church which are absolutely accurate.
Defend at all cost!
Okay … 2-for-2 in the “No” category. As I just suggested, there are certainly criticisms of the Church today (and across the ages) which are absolutely true and I would not defend. There are also things that have the appearance of truth, but when you look a little deeper begin to fall apart as accurate and true criticisms. There are a some fundamental truths at the root of both accurate and inaccurate criticisms. Allow me to suggest a few:
- Not everyone who attends church is part of the Church
- Not everyone who leads church is from God
- People who follow God still have problems
The Church has a public face, and that face is not always of someone who truly belongs. There are people whose talk is loud and sounds “churchy,” but they are not a true and genuine believer. They profess, but do not possess a heart which has been surrendered to God or a life which is lived according to the truth of scripture. The cult of personality is a cancer in the church, as some of its most visible “leaders” are not followers of Jesus. Their “game” sounds great, but their life doesn’t match up. And the life of even the most sincere believer in Jesus is not perfect. It is absolutely true that people who follow God and have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior still make mistakes (some of the colossal ones), they still sin. They fail the test of righteous living and could be rightly judged as hypocrites based on their actions.
Here’s the thing, though. There are also inaccurate criticisms of the Church. And there are a couple of very important reasons why…
- The truth is rarely popular
- Most people don’t understand God’s plan for the Church
I think you’d at least agree that sometimes the truth hurts. That is absolutely true of the little “t” truth which is relative (or man’s truth), but far more important than that, God’s truth (the capital “T” kind) is very rarely popular. God’s truth is absolute and immovable. It does not bend with the prevailing wind of opinion. It does not break under the weight of disagreement. And it exposes so much of what is untrue about the way we choose to live. A very timely illustration of this can be seen in the life of Bruce Jenner. My heart breaks for Bruce, who has taken the name Caitlyn. I urge you to watch the video and hear Grant express his heart and desire if he was given the chance to talk with Caitlyn. I believe it is a godly heart and desire, and it is not absent an honest conversation about God’s truth and Caitlyn’s need for Jesus. God’s truth is rarely popular. But in this very situation, we also see an illustration of God’s plan for the Church. If you’ve noticed as you’ve read, I’ve bounced back and forth between a capital and small letter in writing the word church. I have also at times preceded it with the word, “the.” Both are deliberate, and both hopefully speak to a strong and necessary distinction which needs to be made in this general discussion. The small “c” church is what we so often speak of. It is the “organization” which joins bowling alleys, pizza places and coffee shops in being chosen based on “reviews.” It is a street address, a building, two services on Sunday (and like us), maybe one on Saturday night. It’s a kids program, a coffee bar, comfortable chairs and worship music. And it is not to be confused with what is spoken of in scripture and is at the heart of God’s plan for His presence and work on earth. That is “the Church.” The Church is a global body of believers. People unified, not by their geography, ethnicity or denomination, but their belief in Jesus and the essential work of His death and resurrection. This is the Church that God speaks of in scripture. This is His plan for accomplishing His purpose in the world.
Watch and listen
I invite you to watch and listen to what Grant shares on God’s perspective and plan for the Church. It is so important to make a distinction between the physical entity that’s susceptible to Yelp-type reviews and the true Church God speaks of. The Church is a humble and quiet force, meeting needs and loving others as Christ loved us. The Church consists of admittedly broken people, made whole by Jesus’ death on the cross and the perpetual promise of complete forgiveness whenever they genuinely repent. The Church is God’s answer for a battered and broken world, and every soul in it. If you are reading this and would not consider yourself part of this thing God calls the Church, if your life is a jacked up mess which you’ve written off as ever capable of fixing, our small “c” church is the kind of place where you belong. We would love to open our arms to you and tell you how much God loves you, and because He made you and loves you, how much we love you too. We can’t promise you’ll like everything you hear at Life Bridge, but we promise you’ll hear God’s truth. And just so we’re clear, we are not saying our small “c” church is the answer for you. We humbly suggest it’s the place where you can begin your journey towards the One who is the answer … Jesus!