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This Is Gonna Hurt: Why I Need to Say “I’m Sorry” to the Church

There is nothing impressive about my proclamations of love for Jesus that came while lobbing stones at the church he died to save. There is nothing impressive about it at all.

It takes little to no effort to be a fault-finder among the people of God. If one walked into FBC, Freshwater, Southern Hills, Second Baptist, Saddleback, Mars Hill or (insert name of any church large or small) searching for issues about which to complain, I have no doubt that person could find success quickly.

But the Bible calls us to something far greater than finger-wagging denigration of his church, his body here on earth. 

In the gospel of John, Jesus says to his disciples that the mark by which they will be defined as his body is not their high and mighty ability to condemn; no, he tells them they will be known as his by the love they bear for one another. 

And what is love?

As the writer says in 1 John 3:16, we come to know what love truly is by looking to the model of a man who laid down his life for imperfect people and, in turn, laying down our lives for others.

What would churches look like if we were simply too busy fulfilling this calling, laying down our very lives for one another, to even find the time to bemoan, accuse and condemn from atop our illusory pedestals?

This is not an easy calling; it is part of what Jesus meant when he said that as believers we follow him by taking up our cross daily, an act that’s inevitable culmination is the death of our own self-worshipping hearts. In all reality, it does at times feel much better to eschew Jesus’ command, drop the cross, give release to our own spiritual immaturities, and spew venom rather than give grace to the church. But, trust me, such release is a short-lived and hollow pleasure.

Derek Webb, an artist I often find to be one of the most prophetic voices of our time, recently released a new album that’s title track has been on a constant loop in my head for the last 24 hours. Webb, whose history with the evangelical church is an interesting one to say the least, needs only nine words of a chorus to sum up everything I now know I’ve needed to say not only to the church I left, but also the institutional church as well.

To borrow from Webb, I just have three things I want to say:

I was wrong, I’m sorry … and I love you.