Monday, January 14, 2013


I have been doing a whole lot (probably too much) of online reading lately. Mostly articles and some other blogs. And as I have read, I have noticed an odd and somewhat alarming trend. There seems to be some sort of aversion to the church theme going on out there. When I say that, I don't mean the Church, as in the Body of Christ. I don't even mean an aversion to Christ Himself, which will always exist. I mean an aversion to the local church. Not necessarily any particular church here in Birmingham. Most of what I have read has been from other parts of the country. Not important. Moving on.

I have read a lot lately about people's negative experiences with their local churches, and this really breaks my heart. The purpose of the church is to be an earthly picture of our future heavenly reality. It is the means by which the truth of Gospel should be spread. And to think that people, both Christians and non-belivers alike, are having such bad experiences with their local churches that they choose to leave and never return is simply not ok. I am not talking about being offended by the Bible, the Word of God. We are told over and over again in Scripture that the church will be persecuted and even hated for the sake of God's Kingdom. As Christians, we are to expect people to disagree with us, accuse us of being narrow-minded and so on. What I am talking about is people being made to feel unwelcome in a church or being told that loyalty to that one local church should supersede all other loyalties, even those to Christ.

Please know that actions like these are not part of the heart of Christ. God sent His Son to us to pay the debt owed by us of our sin. The message of the Gospel in a message of love. It is the message of love. There is none greater. And the church should reflect that. Always. And so please let me say that I am so sorry if you have had an experience like this with your local church. Please know that the heart of God, the true heart of God, is for everyone to know Him and know His deep love. He makes this truth plain in 2 Peter 3:9.

"The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 

What is also alarming to me is that there seems to be a large response (from the Christian community) urging those hurt by their local church to avoid going to any church at all and instead to just focus on their own relationship with God. Absolutely, your personal relationship with God should be the single most important thing in your life, but we were also not meant to battle this whole world on our own. We are just not strong enough. That is part of why God gave us the church body. He even commands us to meet together as believers.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, that He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--all the more as we see the Day approaching." 
Hebrews 10:23-25

Adam and I went to a great church when we were at Auburn, and the pastor there would talk frequently about the importance of being part of a church body. He would always reference a particular song entitled, "Me and Jesus Got a Good Thing Going On," and explain that though it sounded catchy, solitude is not the way the Lord intended for us to spend our lives. He would point out that while Jesus is absolutely enough and we are saved by grace and not church attendance, it is critical to be part of a body of believers. It helps us grow, hold us accountable and gives us brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we can share life's joys and heart aches. It gives us a faith family. 

I was feeling very disheartened after some of this reading. It truly saddens me to think of the church as being anything but what God intended it to be, and I just couldn't get all of this out of my mind. And knowing how God operates, it should not have surprised me at all when Adam and I walked into church yesterday morning and heard the first in a series of sermons on the purpose and importance of the church body. God, you are so, so good. As I listened, my heart was filled up. Our pastor talked about why we have the church, why God created the church. I try not to talk a whole lot about our particular church, because while I absolutely love our church home, I do not ever want to take away from the Church, the whole Body of Christ, and I certainly do not want the focus to be on a particular pastor or local church instead of on Christ, where it belongs. That being said, I really do love our church's mission/vision/purpose/whatever statement: We exist to glorify God by making disciples of all nations. Pretty simple, right? Though brief, I think it really encompasses the purpose of the Great Commission that Jesus gave us at the end of Matthew. As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to imitate Him, to strive to be like Him, to love like Him, to forgive like Him. That should be our goal, because a life that looks like that will be a life that makes disciples, a life that draws others to the heart of God.

This is the purpose of the church. Sorry, I know that might have sounded like a really long ramble that came completely out of left field. But if you are reading this blog and you do not know Jesus, I want you to know that He loves you unconditionally. The people down here on Earth are just people. We get things wrong all the time. I am sure I have said something on this blog at some point that hurt someone, even though that has never, ever been my intention. True followers of Christ try to imitate Him, we try. But we fail. So if one of us has hurt you. I am so sorry. Please know that you are loved by a Heavenly Father and by His Son, Jesus Christ, who left the right had of His Father to come here and live among us, sinful us, so that he could demonstrate the life God desires from us, show us the love we are called to show others and forgive us an incredible debt, which should remind us to always be forgiving toward others. This God loves you. You.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8


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