I wrote a magazine story several months ago about why I love the church. While space doesn’t permit me to reproduce the full text here, I think it is worth offering a condensed version to remind every church leader of the need to project love and admiration for Christ’s bride in spite of its faults.
The thing that touched off my musings: a prominent ad for a new church plant reading: “Church doesn’t have to suck! Happy hour service this Sunday at 10:30 a.m.” Some might smile at that trendy message, but its not-so-subtle implication is that most churches are boring and ineffective.
Frankly, I’m tired of people bashing the church. I’m not referring to the world’s ridicule of the church; that’s to be expected. I’m referring to the criticism of the church from within.
Scorning Christ’s bride
Popular Christian authors, convention speakers, parachurch leaders and “cutting-edge” preachers frequently heap scorn on Jesus’ bride. They accuse her of irrelevance, indifference, legalism, intolerance and judgmentalism … the indictments go on and on. I sometimes get the impression these leaders love people in the world and despise people in the church.
One best-selling author claims he experienced more genuine fellowship in a commune than a church. Now he travels the country apologizing for the church’s past offenses. A new music director in a traditional church informed his choir they would no longer be wearing robes. He insisted the choir members needed to repent for allowing their contrived apparel to be such a barrier to the honest seeker. Really?
Of course, some criticism is valid, because the church is made up of imperfect people like you and me. But that’s always been true. The first church in Jerusalem refused to accept the newly converted Paul. Judaizers undermined sound doctrine in churches this apostle planted. The seven churches listed in Revelation were lukewarm and prideful.
Still, in response to the critics, I want to offer a positive word. If Jesus loved the church and gave Himself up for her, those seeking to be like Christ should love the church enough to sacrifice for it and defend it when necessary.
Think about the positive influence of the church in America. The frontier church started 106 of the first 108 colleges in this country. Or look around your community. Who established most of the hospitals where you live? Not the Atheists Society. Most were founded by Protestant and Catholic churches.
The church started and funds most inner-city missions that minister to the addicted and homeless. The church started and undergirds most orphanages and homes for the elderly.
Who consistently visits and conducts worship services in prison? Who establishes crisis pregnancy centers and homes to assist desperate single mothers? Who consistently teaches the moral values that provide our ethical foundation? In every case, the answer is: the church.