I said all of the above to show you that I am somewhat of a "church expert." Not only have I been in church, but my parents were and are heavily involved in theirs. When I was on my own, I was on leadership with my campus ministry. Now, my husband in a worship pastor. I have never just sat on a pew. And when you see what goes on beyond the pulpit, things can get messy. Why? Because church is full of people, and people are messy.
I am writing this for two reasons....the first is to ask for your forgiveness. I am guilty of slandering the church....the same church that Jesus calls his bride. I have pointed out flaws and been frustrated beyond belief many Sundays throughout my life because of something said or done. I get sick of the politics and cliques. I have crinkled my nose at all the opinions and gossip, without taking the plank out of my own eye. I have whined about people not loving others when I could have just loved others myself. I have worried about the way others worship instead of focusing on my own worship. Please forgive me if I have said anything harsh to you about His church, His people.
The second reason I am writing this is to pour out what God has shown me about His church. Sunday morning, I asked God to open my eyes to what He sees. My brain was in chaos (as always after getting myself and my one year old ready and dropped off.) I walked in, and here came the people and their smiling faces. All I could think was "I can't pull this off today," so I gave a half-smile and went on. I was actually annoyed at their joy because I wasn't feeling it. I sat in my pew and we started worship. I was halfway singing because I knew my heart was a little hard that morning. But, then I heard something. I heard a choir. Not just a choir at the front, but from the whole church. I heard worshipping. Because my husband is on staff, I know a lot of members' stories. Some of the voices I heard praising God have battled cancer or are battling it right now. Some have lost children. Some have been through divorces. Bitterness. Abuse. Death of loved ones. Drugs. Children who don't speak to them or denounce God. People barely scraping by. New mothers. Teenagers. Families that had been ripped apart and put back together.
These are real people...singing at the top of their lungs, worshipping God. Not because they were "supposed to," but because they have been through the fire and kept their faith. They are standing on a cliff with no way to go but in the arms of Jesus. They know, without a doubt, that God is Faithful. In that moment, I felt the love God had for His church. I also felt the love the church had for God. It is an intimate communion. Needless to say, I was brought the my knees. Lord, forgive me for not loving the church like you do.
I have been in Thailand where there was one Christian in the whole village. One. When I think of complaining about church, I will remember that woman.... a single light in a very dark place full of human trafficking and idol worship. Thank you, Lord, for other believers.
We get a picture of what the early church looked like in Acts 2:42-47:
"All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity--all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. "
Church is a beautiful, woven web of God's people, coming together to worship, teach, and learn with each other. It is sharpening and encouraging. It is hands of prayer warriors laying on you as you go through a trial. It is rejoicing when others rejoice, and mourning when others mourn. It is meeting each others' needs. It is learning and growing. God says we become His children when we call on Him, and in that, believers are family. We all know families are full of mistakes and personalities that don't get along. Our own families drive us nuts, because we know everything good and bad about them. But still, we are family.
I love my church in Tyler, and I love my brothers and sisters across the globe. People say the church is full of hypocrites, and I say it is full of people. People who know they screw up every day and need Jesus. People who are doing their best to know God and make Him known to others. If you are looking for perfection, you won't find it in anyone but Jesus. He came to heal the sick and broken, and that is just what churches are full of: sick and broken believers.
The church is facing persecution and pointed fingers from the world and will face more every day. I can't be on the pointing fingers side. I must defend her. I will not speak against a son or daughter of a King. From this point on, I choose to operate in love instead of judgement. I choose to tame my tongue, which scriptures say is full of deadly poison (James 3:8.) I choose to encourage and ask what I can give instead of what I can get. This is my church, and we are one body, here for the same purpose: to love God and love others.
..."And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these." Mark 12:30-31