“I hate the church”

It’s becoming fashionable to condemn and criticize the church. It’s popular, and you’ll get a following if you do it long and loud enough. It’s becoming a favorite pastime of folks who are dealing with how the church has disappointed them or someone else. It’s a default position: blame the church.

There’s a lot of problems with and in the church, to be sure. I don’t have to list them here for you to get my point (I’m a pastor). However, I am becoming more concerned that some of these condemnations are unjustified, and more to the point, that we have forgotten how Christ himself feels toward the church.

Kevin Emmert has written an article entitled “The Church is a Harlot, but I love her” and he depicts well the sentiment of critique that has besieged the local congregation. I agree with him that some of the disappointments leveled at the church have more to do with the person offering them than the church. This is not always the case, of course, but consider the possibility of how easy it is to dismiss the church because it doesn’t measure up to your own ideal. Many times people expect the church to meet a certain set of criteria, and if it doesn’t, on to the next one. It’s impossible to meet such a subjective set of expectations for each and every person.

There has been a great deal of conversation related to millennials and how few there are in our churches. Emmert reacts to a recent article and offers an insightful response: : “. . . I don’t think Evans and other Millennials are leaving the church because they don’t find Jesus. My suspicion is they’re wagging their fingers at the church because they don’t find the Jesus they want. Evangelicalism certainly isn’t flawless. However, I think Evans’ claim that Jesus is absent from “the church” is absurd. Not only is it theologically false, it’s a slap in the face to Christ’s bride, a purely rhetorical statement that simply provokes controversy rather than fostering Christian unity.

There is a difference between addressing the need to change tactics in order to be more effective in ministry, and a condemnation of God’s people because they don’t do what you think ought to be done. The church through the centuries has had its share of critics, but the local congregation remains the body of Christ with all its imperfections and shortcomings. I’m not ready to give up on the church’s ability to connect with persons in its community. I realize there are those who are ready to give up on the church, however, and I am deeply saddened by that. There will be always enough disappointment to go around.

The church isn’t perfect, which isn’t a glib acknowledgement to avoid seeking to get better at how we relate to each other or the world around us. However, it is an affirmation and encouragement to know that imperfect people are welcome in the body of Christ. It is an awareness of our brokenness and need for forgiveness, and cause for celebration because of Christ and what He has done on our behalf. It’s best to stop trying so hard to measure up to someone else’s expectations, and instead rely upon Christ to build the church.

This won’t end the debate or conversation about what’s wrong with the church, but I think it should be tempered with what is right with the church. The church, at it’s best, is a redemptive people who exist for the benefit of those who aren’t part of the church (yet). As Christ followers, the church is still the only group of people who are given the admonition to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”

There’s going to problems with that too. We’re not always going to agree with how that’s done, but let’s get on with it anyway. Let each one of do some introspection and determine the change we need to make before we start figuring out what’s wrong with everyone else. And, at the end of the day, it’s still about Jesus.