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Can You Really Love Jesus Yet Hate the Church?

The challenge is this:

As believers, we have to be careful not to let our criticisms against churches add to the public dismissal of church’s significance or relevance.

Criticisms from one church leader against other churches or leaders because of their style, method, and lack of emphasis on topics important to the critic often diminish the authenticity of the accused church and the church as a whole.

In an interview with Bono, I heard him accuse “the church” of neglecting the poor. It was said as if this were an understood fact. While I commend Bono for his humanitarian efforts, it does sound a bit arrogant on his part to make a public judgment on that level.

I don’t know where he has attended church. Perhaps he has had some negative experiences. I don’t know if he gives any financial support to churches that he has a connection with so they can actually help the poor.   


But what I do know is that the churches I know and the pastors I associate with are heavily invested in giving to the poor, orphans and widows, HIV/Aids victims, giving aid to the homeless, and responding to world and community crisis.

So I reject these assumptions and assessments of “the church” that are expressed, not just by Bono but others as well. One only needs to mention one church – Salvation Army – to offer an exception to this misguided opinion.

3.  The church is made up of people.

Flawed people. People like you and me are in the church. I have made mistakes, and you have made mistakes. This reality makes it possible for others (also flawed) to join us. As a pastor, I have made mistakes in trying to lead our church.

The church is an organization of imperfect people who are accepting of other imperfect people who begin to understand they have a purpose, and together, try to make a difference in the world.

 

4.  People hurt people.

“The church really hurt me.” There is no such thing as the church hurting someone.  

It’s like saying:

“The bank really hurt me.” 

“Restaurants have wounded me.”

“The gym hurt my feelings.”

It is not the entities or organizations that have hurt us – it’s the people in them. The people who work in restaurants have let me down. I’ve managed to find others places to eat.  

There are people who workout at my gym that could very well be hypocrites. I may be judging others there, but I still go and workout.  

If you have been hurt, violated, or abused in a church – I want to say to you sincerely, “I am so sorry for your pain. I’m sorry you have experienced that.” 

I know that pain myself. I’ve experienced many difficulties, betrayals, and struggles in a church. I’ve probably been the offending party in a few unfortunate situations.

But still I need to go, grow, serve, worship and build God’s house. Regardless of the struggles or hypocrisies of humanity. I need to be in His church.

I urge you to forgive those people you may have met in a church, whether a leader or a member, so that you can continue to grow in your faith. In an effort to take your forgiveness to a deeper place – try church again. Try a different church, a new church; there are many ‘life-giving’ churches.

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philipwagner@churchleaders.com'
Philip Wagner is Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles and founder of Generositywater.org. Oasis is an innovative and racially diverse church, largely comprised of people in their 20’s & 30’s. Oasis is known for its local and global outreach to the impoverished; especially orphans and widows, and funding clean water projects. Philip and his wife, Holly, started Oasis in 1984, in Beverly Hills with10 people. Today they’ve grown to 3000+ members.