Roughly three years ago I left a career in engineering to serve the church full-time. Since that day, I have wrestled with unrealized expectations. I battled through an over-romanticized view of the church. I walked through seasons of pain and suffering, mostly at the expense of the church. I suffered through a season of depression because of unrealistic ministry goals. There were times I wanted to leave. But, by God’s grace, I am still here.
I mention this because despite all these experiences, I am more in love with the church today than at any point in my life. I am convinced of the transformative power of the church. I am also convicted more than ever the church is the vehicle for growing into God’s image and the primary source of revealing God’s glory to the world.
For all the negativity and bashing the church receives (mostly at the hands of its own people), the church is still the bride of Jesus. And if Jesus grabbed coffee with me, I believe he would spend more time telling me why he loves the church than what he believes is wrong with her.
So, I want to explain why I love the church. There are hundreds of points I could make, but you wouldn’t hang around to read them all. So, I will give you 8. Let’s do it.
1.) The church is messy.
The church isn’t a place for the clean and tidy. It isn’t a place for those who “have it together.” The church is a refuge for people struggling with addictions to pornography, drugs, and alcohol. It is a place for those struggling with bitterness, greed, anger, and acceptance. The church is a place for those struggling with moral righteousness. Regardless of the issue, the church is messy because the church is people. And all people are broken.
This is why I love the church. The church doesn’t ask for perfection. The church doesn’t claim we must get it together before we are accepted. The church, instead, acknowledges there is only one who is perfect…Jesus. He is the head of the church, and the church clings to him.
2.) The church is God’s instrument to repel darkness in the world.
The church is the light of the world. Followers of Jesus have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them, and the church has the Spirit hovering over her, both locally and globally. The church is not some weird club with secret handshakes. The church has an eternal mission. Those who become Christians are called out of the world, and they join a cause greater than themselves.
When the church is present, darkness must disappear. No other institution or collection of people can make this claim. The church is God’s chosen instrument in the world to repel darkness. I love this about the church. Broken people have a hand in eternal destinies. That’s swagtastic.
3.) The church is people, and I can’t give up on people.
Many in my generation are pessimistic towards organizations and institutions. So, when the church is called an organization or institution, walls immediately come up. Fortunately, the church is not primarily an institution. The church is primarily…people.
The church isn’t a conglomerate of doctrines. It is a collection of people filled with the Spirit.TWEET THIS!
The church is not an abstract conglomerate of ideals and doctrines. The church is a collection of men and women created in the image of God. And these people are filled with the Spirit of God.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross to establish an abstract institution. He didn’t die for a logo. He died for people. Jesus died for broken, sinful people. And it is precisely because Jesus died for people, and not an institution, that I love the church.
God never has (and never will) give up on people. I won’t either.
4.) There are no professionals in the church.
The beauty of the church is her sustainability isn’t dependent upon professionals. There are not more important (or less important) roles in the church. There are simply different roles. In fact, in 1 Cor. 12, Paul says the parts that would seem to be “less honorable” God has given greater honor. In other words, those roles the world would see as insignificant God gives the greatest significance.
Despite the flawed logic of some Christians, there is no “professionalization” of ministry. There is just ministry.
Church leaders and pastors aren’t in their respective positions because they have “arrived.” As a leader, I can honestly say there is not a morality or holiness gap between myself and those to whom I minister.
I am on the same journey (in desperate need of the same infinite grace) as the person who became a follower of Jesus yesterday. I struggle. I hurt. We all walk this road together collectively as the body of Christ. This is the beauty of the church.
5.) My Savior, Jesus, died to establish the church.
I love Jesus. I am not perfect. Far from it. But every piece of who I am belongs to him. And my Savior, the one who gave his life for me, also gave his life for the church. Again, not the church as an institution, but the church as a collective group of Spirit-filled people.
Jesus is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). Not me. Not Rick Warren. Not Louis Giglio. Not any other well-known pastor or church leader. I thank God for the great leaders in the church today, but they aren’t the head of the church. That title belongs to Jesus.
I know people are going to let me down. I know I will let people down. But I also know regardless of the hurt or disappointment I experience, Jesus reigns over the church. And I know Jesus never disappoints. His love for me never fails. His presence never leaves.
I love the people who comprise the church, but ultimately, I don’t place my hope in them. That belongs to the King. The hope of the church and the reason she will never die is Jesus. This is why I love the church.
6.) The church is not a one size fits all formula.
The church isn’t confined to one methodology, culture, or ethnicity. God doesn’t need a particular set of leadership traits or a specific environment for his church to flourish.
The church is an expression of the people in a particular culture for that particular culture. Go to Africa and the church looks entirely different than what I experience in America. The expression of the church in America, with all the imperfections, led me to salvation and continues to sanctify me daily. The church in China, with all its imperfections, leads people to salvation and continues the process of sanctification in a different way.
This is the beauty of the church…she is adaptable. The gospel isn’t for a select group. The transformative message of the cross never changes, but the “ins and outs” of Christian living, in general, and the church, in particular, can be contextualized. This is why I love the church.
7.) Giving up on the church means we embrace a church of one. Scary.
I mourn for those who say they love Jesus, but do not believe they need the church. I don’t mourn necessarily for their salvation. I am mourn mostly because they don’t see the connection between the salvation of Christ and the bride of Christ. They don’t understand the process of sanctification. They don’t understand the gospel.
I understand some of you have been hurt. I hurt with you. I too have experienced attacks on my family and ministry. But the beauty of these attacks is God often uses them to reveal something messed up in our own heart. And without the attacks, there are levels of selfishness that would never be exposed.
God looks at me and says, “You have layers of selfishness I need to expose. And exposing them will be painful. Trust me, though. Exposing them will be liberating.”
The gospel proclaims life and freedom come through suffering. They are inextricably tied together.TWEET THIS!
This is the message of the gospel. Through pain and suffering come life and freedom. The two are inextricably wound together. They can’t be divorced or separated.
The message the church sends to the world is the same message Jesus sends to his church: the gospel is so amazing because it is both painful and wonderful, at the same time.
Everyone needs the church. Even though we can go faster alone, we can’t go farther. We can avoid heartache and failed expectations, but in the process we avoid sanctification and an authentic experience of the gospel.
Divorcing from the church means we believe we can do on our own what Christ proclaims we need others to do…be molded into his image.
This is why I love the church. The local church specifically. It transforms me into the image of my Creator. Something I could never do on my own.
8.) The church has often led the way in meeting the needs of the world.
From the earliest days of the church, people have been a recipient of God’s grace and justice. The church, unlike any other collection of people, has released the oppressed, brought healing, and restored hope, to millions. This is because the church is led by the Spirit. And where the Spirit is present, justice is a priority.
So, in the roughly 2000 years of the church’s existence, game changing ideas like hospitals, public education, and orphanages have been birthed by the church.
Hospitals, even though expressed in some forms before Christianity, were transformed because of Christians. It was Christians who expanded treatment to the poor, elderly, and widowed. It was Christians who transformed public education. In fact, the first charter for public education in America was called “The Old Deluder Satan Act.” The basis behind the name? Christians believed Satan hindered men and women from knowing the Scriptures. So it was followers of Jesus who saw public education as necessary for the spread of the gospel.
The same could be said for many non-profits, including the Red Cross. Compassion and justice have marked the church of Jesus Christ since the day she was born. And this will continue. Because justice, mercy, and compassion are present where the Spirit of God is present.
I love the church. I know she has imperfections. The church is not perfect. But I know the King is perfect. He died so I might live. He died so God’s people might be the light of the world.
And despite the brokenness of those comprising the church, I can’t stop loving the church. I can’t give up on the church. Because I love Jesus. And Jesus will never give up on his bride.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!