One evening during my study break this past summer I found a documentary over George Washington on Amazon Prime. As Debi and I watched the preview for the docudrama, she got the sense the flick was more hero worship than historical. We didn’t take in the show so I can’t make a review. But I did wonder if maybe a little hero worship might not be a bad thing these days.
You see, we live in a culture of criticism today where anything that is not 100% aligned with our feelings is speculative and everything is open for potshots. Cynicism is supreme and praise is problematic. No, we don’t want to deify people nor turn a blind eye to blatant sin. However, when we are geared toward tearing down, we miss so much good intertwined with the weeds that we pull up the whole plant and have nothing to encourage ourselves with or learn from.
One arena where this is especially seen is in discussions about the church. Even celebrated Christian writer, Francis Chan, noted that his objective in a recent book was to “point out areas where the church is lacking.” Areas where the church is lacking? We all know that local bodies of Christ have issues. I’ve been in some form of Christian ministry for over 25 years and I can tell you plenty of stories of dysfunction. The question though is one of focus. What will we choose to spend our time looking at; the problems or the praise? This is especially true for followers of Jesus. Yes, there are issues to be discussed and strategies to be employed for improvement. However, when we do nothing but throw stones at the church, we are ultimately harming ourselves.
When I look around at the world today and see all the pains and problems, I am also quickly reminded that Jesus has the answers in his body, which is the universal church. Loneliness is alieved when people connect passionately with Jesus at the center. When the local church family is embraced, we find healing and purpose in a world of self-centeredness. In short, while there are issues arising from our broken humanity, we owe it to ourselves and those who come after us to pursue and praise the local church which is to reflect the authentic universal and eternal Church.
But on a more intimate note, one of my favorite Biblical pictures of the church is the Bride of Christ. It’s interesting to see the tension of this illustration with a book by Dan Kimball entitled, “They Like Jesus but Not the church.” Here’s the deal. I am not perfect nor is my wife. However, if someone began to trash talk my bride and say they liked me, but not her, well then, our relationship would be over with. You just don’t talk bad about my bride. Jesus probably doesn’t like it much when people talk down His Bride especially with a caviler attitude. That ought to challenge us.
I’ll be making some posts this fall on the church and I hope they will be of an encouragement to you. I hope that at the end of all this, you will love the church as much as I do. Yes, there are and will be problems. But it is my desire that we might own up to our responsibilities and stand together to praise the Bride of Christ as much as He does.
What are some positive memories or praises that you can give about the universal Church or your local body of Christ today?
Francis Chan, Letters to The Church (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2018), 211.
” I too often have been disenchanted with His bride and I am she.”
That’s a good line Robert.
It seems often that we get “disenchanted” by different pieces and then hold our position as the most noble.
I’ll be interested in where you choose to go with these blogs. I’ve always been fascinated by the critique of the church that intends to “throw baby with bathwater.” In short I’ve determined that the whole problem is a misunderstanding of proximity. Anywhere we spend our little precious time will be the places where we experience jubilation and defeat. It’s simply a matter of proximity. I too often have been disenchanted with His bride and I am she. What always causes me pause is that He loves her with every essence of who He is. I don’t always understand why, but my pursuit of that answer keeps me close to her.
Jean, that is a beautiful testimony – one of generational blessings.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, in the midwest, with a mother who took me to church and encouraged my participation, I see the church as an important place for both learning, worship and making connections with others. Both the church where I grew up and the 2 churches we have been with since we moved south have continued in these same ways. I am grateful for the friendships made in church as well as for the chances to learn, grow and share.
I think that is a beautiful example Eric. In looking at the bigger picture, many people forget that such organizations as the International Red Cross and Salvation Army were actually started by firm believers in Jesus and the local church.
After hurricane Harvey, I participated in two relief trips from Dallas to Houston. In Houston, I heard over and over how the nonprofit, faith-based sector outpaced FEMA in speed, relief, and community impact. Houstonians weren’t necessarily criticizing FEMA or government. Rather they were marveling at the church shining by doing what we are called to do. It was a blessing just to be a part.