Love the Church?

Different people view the church very differently. Our views are affected by our history, our problems, our preferences, our inclinations and- at our best- by our theology.
The church, of course, is not the building. I really appreciate the building God allows my church to use. It is helpful and it has come at great sacrifice. We use it well at FBC O’Fallon where I am pastor. There are large numbers of people using our church building in some way almost every day. I love that.
But I’m not talking about the church building here. I’m talking about the church. You know, that messy conglomeration of believers that gather together to glorify the Lord through our worship and discipleship, our ministry and our fellowship and through our missions and evangelism. I’m talking about the local church of gathered believers and the more general sense of the church- believers all over the world who gather in their own local expressions of the church.
There are at least 5 different views of the church I see.
1. Some hate the church. I don’t believe a Christ-follower can hate the church. After all, Christ is the one who formed it and is the foundation of the church. But many in our world hate the things of God and, therefore, hate the institution God founded.
2. Some dislike the church. They were wounded by some Christians, perhaps, and have wrongly responded by hating the church. Church people wronged them or acted in wrong ways. Instead of hating the sin, they begin to hate people who have sinned. They want the church to fail. They want to see the church decline. They want the church to suffer as they have suffered. I hate that there are many who have been wrongly hurt by churches. (It is possible to be “rightly hurt” by the church, of course. When a church tells you the truth in a loving way, it can still hurt. But it “rightly hurts”.) If you have been wrongly hurt by a church, please consider the better course of healing and forgiveness rather than bitterness and strife.
3. Some tolerate the church. This group neither loves nor hates the church. In many cases they still attend. But, they are excessively critical, unsupportive and easily discontented. They see the church as being there for their pleasure rather than the pleasure of God. The Doobie Brothers sang “Jesus is just alright with me.” This group thinks the church is “just alright”. They don’t argue that God founded it, but they wonder why He bothered. They aren’t against the church exactly, but neither are they the kind of folks who really build the church or support the church or even pray for the church. And it is convenient to have a local church for weddings and funerals and occasional attendance. So, they tolerate it. But boy it irks them if the church asks for money. Or time. Or service. Or too much holiness.
4. Some like the church. In some ways, this is the most dangerous position. Those who like the church know the church is from God and that it is important. They recognize that church attendance is a good thing. They are glad they can worship with other believers and help with ministries they care about. They like the help the church provides with families and grief and counseling. Church is a good thing.
But at the risk of stating the obvious, “like” and “love” are different from each other. Does a husband want his wife just to like him? Does a mother want her children to only like her? Don’t we want something more? Like means we enjoy something as long as the circumstances are as we want them to be. I like the church because it meets my needs or agrees with my sentiments or does things in the way I want them done. But what if it doesn’t? Do I stop liking the church if it isn’t as I want it to be? Do I stop liking God if He isn’t as I want Him to be? Like is a fickle beast. Fickle. It promotes polls over prayer and man centered thinking over God centered thinking. If I am not mistaken, God isn’t as concerned about what I like as I am. I don’t always like doing the right things, but God calls me to the right things because they are right.
Don’t make church about what you like. Make it about the Lord. Make it about His word, His direction and His mission.
5. Some love the church. They know it is imperfect because it is made up of people. But they love it anyway. They believe the local church is the hope of the world and they are for it. They love it more than politics or business or school. They love it when it is right on target and they love it enough to help it when it bounces off the tracks. They work, they give, they encourage, they challenge, they support, they tell the truth, they pray– and they do it all in the context of love. They love the church because Christ made it. They love it because they love the Lord.
I want to ask you, if you know Christ as your Savior, to love the church. Love this community of imperfect sinners who have discovered a perfect Savior. Find a bible based church that loves the Lord and give yourself fully to the life and mission. Choose to love them through good and bad, agreement and disagreement. Love that church like Christ loves you. Well, that last sentence will be pretty hard, but make it your goal and you will be right on target.

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