Throughout my ministry I have heard stories about the Church, some where the Church helped, blessed, and served someone well. I have also heard stories where people felt let down, were disappointed, and even experienced damage from a Church. You have probably heard these stories too, even been a part of some.
The early church wasn’t much different. There is the Pentecost story where the Holy Spirit filled 120 people, they spilled into the street speaking God’s glory boldly, and 3000 were added to the Church the first day. There is also the story told a few weeks later when the church was about to split over whose widows (Hellenistic or Hebrew) were getting the best care and food. There is the story of Paul and Barnabas sharing in a great Missionary Journey that was world changing and then getting into an argument and parting company. There is the story of the Church turning the world upside down all they while they were still trying to figure out communion.
Like everyone who has spent any time in the church I have had amazing blessings come from connecting with a Church. I have also been hurt and let down.
I have seen many people leave the Church because they have been let down, disappointed, and even hurt. A change was made they did not like. Someone in the Church hurt their feelings. They had a need that somehow was not met. Pastors or Church leaders failed to live up to their expectations, or they did not feel appreciated or affirmed enough and just slipped away.
“It never says in the Bible to have faith in the Church, but it does say to have faith in God and be the Church!”
For years I was hoping to wake up one Sunday and discover everyone in my Church family had become sinless, holy, loving, and pretty much perfect. I might even have thought that my next sermon was going to do it. For years I was hoping to wake up one Sunday and be so spiritual, Godly, and holy myself that I would be above it all. I might even have thought my next prayer was going to result in that. Then it dawned on me a few years ago, “This wasn’t ever going to happen, and it wasn’t supposed to happen”.
People were going to be people and God was going to be God, it was time to stop getting the two mixed up.
It is still stunning to me that any of us are surprised when people act like people. It is even more stunning when we take the faith we are to have in God and misplace it into those people. That is a recipe for disaster. We are called to love those people just like God loves us. And in relationship with those people who are really just like us we are to reflect Christ into the world. This is why the words of the church are grace, forgiveness, and love, all words that thrive in the midst of imperfect and limited people.
And I know I am close to getting it right not when I demand that grace, forgiveness, and love from others, but just choose to give it myself because Christ gave Himself for me.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from we ourselves;” 2 Corinthians 4:7