I want to start out with a bit of an admission. By way of fairness, it behooves me to begin this article by stating that I am an apologist for the church. Whether right as rain or wrong as snow in the summer, I will always hold to the idea of God’s church being valuable. Even deeper, I see that value as something worth defending.
It is actually the essence of that value that pushes my “pen”. The contemporary Christian church finds herself being questioned and criticized. Scandal, false prophecy, poor biblical scholarship, dictatorial doctrine & a misalignment of creed and conduct in so many of our houses of worship have taken their toll on the reputation of the church at large. So much so, that despite all that the church does (and has done) in the name of Christian service, there are many today who approach the sanctuary with skepticism. There are those who have been turned off by the idea of attending church, instead opting to connect, communicate and commune with their God without having to deal with the fuss and foolishness that sometimes comes with the “fellowship of the assembly of the righteous”.
For many of our brothers and sisters, the increasingly common statements like “I’m spiritual but not religious” , “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian” and “I believe in God but not in organized religion” are not just indictments of the universal church, but also clarion cries to cosmos saying “Lord, I want you, but not all that has become synonymous with Your church”
At the risk of losing my membership in the “We Love The Church No Matter What” club, might I make the claim that these types of critiques are desperately needed. The critiques of the institution are required in order to not only re-establish her credibility in the world but also to realign her back towards God. The church is called to reflect and resemble God in all of her doings. Whether in service on Sunday or in service to others during the other six days of the week, the church is supposed to operate as the hands, feet, eyes, arms & heart of Jesus. When Jesus is no longer discernible in the dealings of the church, His absence ought to be worth discussing in detail. And those who may not have as vested an interest in the Church changing into anything different that what they’ve always known it as are uniquely positioned to offer constructive commentary.
Our love and loyalty to the church notwithstanding, we must learn not to view these criticisms of the church as indictments but instead as emplorements. Instead of being hyper-sensitive (or responding in a hyper-sanctified way) to anything that calls God’s church to task, we, as followers of the life model set by that poor Palestinian Jew named Jesus, must welcome these appraisals & respond to them in a way that offers perspective and appreciates accountability.
With all that presently plagues our world, there is a need for the righteousness, justice, hope, encouragement, and love that is inculcated in the church. May we consider that principled critique of the church is not to hatefully point out what may be wrong with her but instead to lovingly revive what is right with her. Current cavilings of the church, as a whole, are nothing more than passionate pleas for the church to be the best version of herself. While all of the complaints aren’t legitimate, they all ought be listened to and taken seriously; seen as reminders to revisit God’s plan and purpose to ensure we are measuring up to what God has called us to be.
It is what the church is called to be (and what the church has meant to our society across the stretch of time) that still make the church relevant today. With all of the chaos, confusion , and calamity around us, the world is still looking to the church of the living God for direction. The world is still looking for the church to offer a model for how they ought move. Our world becomes a lot less confused when the church becomes less confused. Most people aren’t against the church; people are against the church where Jesus is not discernibly at the center of it. The desperation of the days we find ourselves in have minified the tolerance people have for the church to be anything less than what God says it ought be.
Make no mistake, divinity and drama, merits and mistakes…flaws and all, the church is still a factor in today’s times. The voice of the church still holds weight in the marketplace. The love of the church still comforts the unloved & welcomes the outcast. The faith in the church to rediscover “the Way, the Truth, & the Life” that they have lost still remains unyielding as ever. The church still represents something holy in a hedonistic world. The church still matters.