Thursday, October 6, 2016

Three Things to Remember when the Church Lets You Down

Photo Courtesy of Tharakorn/freedigitalphotos.net
And God placed all things under his feet 
and appointed him to be head over 
everything for the church, which is his body, 
the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 
 Ephesians 1:22-23, NIV


There are three things I've found that I need to remember when I'm upset with "my church."

Trust me...I've been disappointed with the church...many times. Many, many times. Especially when one has a child with special needs, the church can let us down because, while schools are legally bound to be accommodating for our children with special needs, churches are not.

Another time when it's easy to be disappointed by the church is when we feel we've volunteered a LOT or tithed a LOT, and yet the requests continue to pour in for more, and more, and more.  When we have kids with special needs, the money can be tight due to paying medical bills or therapy bills; and the energy to volunteer may be low because we've already been burning the candle at both ends.  So we get angry because the church can burn us out by requesting more and more from us.

But God has shown me that there are three things I need to remember when I'm feeling disappointed in my church here on earth.

1. The church is a PART of a perfect and divine God.

The opening verse above, from Ephesians, reminds us of the fact that God is still in control, even when we feel like things in our earthly churches may be OUT of control.   Why are so many parishioners leaving?  Why do we receive such bad press in the media?  Why doesn't anyone ever volunteer?  Why can't we fill an open pastoral position?  Where are all the elders?

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 
Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV

Christ is our example, but we will always be striving to attain fullness and maturity in Christ until we see him face to face. So, while we reside in churches which are a PART of God's grand design, we are still working to attain that FULLNESS and MATURITY of which Paul wrote to the Ephesians.

2. The earthly church is led by imperfect humans...in other words, sinners.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. 
Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV

God continues to remind me that I can't take out my frustrations with the church on Him because, while we reside on earth, we will constantly be fighting against the imperfections of human nature. No matter how "amazing" our pastor, or youth director, or worship minister, or women's' ministry, or care team, or AWANA leader, (this list can go on and on) IS, they will NEVER be perfect, and they will certainly have flaws that may eventually hurt us personally or let us down. 

This does not mean we can't feel the pain, or experience the frustration...it doesn't mean we have to deny the hurt we feel...it just means we shouldn't use this as an EXCUSE to be against going to church, or tithing, or supporting church ministries.   If we allow our own bitterness to weaken a church, we are insulting God's plan, and causing harm to his temple.

We need to be constructive in our criticisms of the church by going directly to those who are in charge if we have an issue or concern rather than gossiping amongst ourselves and causing dissension among other church members.

3. God has instructed us to be a part of a church for our own good.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
 Hebrews 10: 24-25 NIV

Whether we like it or not...

We are a family...all of us who believe in Jesus Christ and confess our faith together...we are family. And, just as parents want their children to get along, so does God wish we could all get along and honor one another and support one another. But we don't, not like we should.

Still, when we feel bitterness creep into our hearts, we need to turn to God and pray for him to humble us and help us to forgive.  We need to work toward building up God's family and not be a part of what "the world" tends to see Christians like (judgmental, two-faced, egotistical, etc).  

I write all of this because it's a good reminder for myself too!  I write this because I need to work on remembering that God's church is not just something I can haphazardly criticize.  It IS HIS CHURCH.  He DOES take it personally when we speak of his temple irreverently.  

So, as we head into the season which tends to be the church's crowned jewel, I encourage all of us to pray for the unity in the church and for strong leaders to rise up and lead our churches as God would lead. I ask that we continue to persevere and SHOW up in spite of the difficulties we face to get there and frustrations we may encounter when we are there. Let's make a difference in the church rather than expecting the church to make a difference in us.  

Pray:  Heavenly Father, I'm sorry for the times when I have criticized my church.  I realize that this is an extension of you and that in hurting the church, I hurt you.  I pray that you show me how you would like me to be an active part in my church.  I ask you to help me make my church MORE of the FULLNESS and COMPLETION of your will on earth.  Amen.  

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