By Pastor Rob Bloss
I’ve heard so many stories of disappointment, betrayal, hurt, confusion, or simply apathy when it comes to people’s experience with church. I get it. I can relate to both the cause and effect of these stories.
I know that it’s considered quite cool today to knock the church. Some Christians don’t even want to go anymore, deciding instead to go to their local coffee shop and talk about all the things that are wrong with the Evangelical Church. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I doubt if there have been many times in our history when there has been as much anger, hostility, disappointment, and disillusionment with the institutional church as there is today.
But I just want to go on record in saying I love the church. No apologies. No qualifiers. I LOVE THE CHURCH!
I’m talking the big “C” church, the universal church, but also about the little “c” church, and more specifically, about Covenant Church. As a church established on the foundational, essential doctrines of Christianity, we are a small expression of the larger church. And we are made up of the same kind of people, those who are faithful and at the same time, flawed.
If you do a Bible study on the church, it’s almost entirely good news. Religion regularly gets a bad rap in the Bible, but the church doesn’t.
The New Testament writers never shied away from criticizing members of the church when they needed correction. We’d barely have a New Testament without that. But Paul, John and the others make a very real distinction. Even when they offer scathing criticism to individual believers, church leaders and local congregations, they are effusive in their expressions of love for the body of Christ.
When Jesus walked this Earth, he only started one organization, and it’s called the church. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matt. 16:18 NLT).
Christ loves the church. He gave his life for her.
How can we pursue a growing love for the Church and even our local church? I believe there are three main ways:
As Americans, we are typically impatient with any kind of change and even more so with heart-change. When a goal is set before us, we make plans, charts, and lists.
That works for a lot of things, but not for growing in love. When we spend time with the community of believers; when we share a meal in Jesus’ name; when we serve one another in the church; only then will we see what works in the church and how our hearts need to change.
Little by little, when we commit to our local church and to patience, our hearts will desire more of that community. We will pursue growth in love to give more glory to the One who created us for love. But this doesn’t happen instantly. It requires patience, with ourselves and each other.
We also watch closely how we spend our time, and we make room for prayer. We schedule it into our days. We do not neglect it. We daily bring our concerns, worries, expectations, and desires to God.
He already knows them, but by pursuing this time with him, your heart will desire more of what he wants in your life. His ways will be uniquely known to you through this communion. And when you grow closer to Christ, your love for the church will grow as well. You will see it as he sees it—a vessel for his glory and a conduit of his power.
Don’t give up on the church. Do not leave the body because of the hurts a church and its people have caused. Jesus Christ knows all about hurt. He is with you and desires to have you with him. Jesus spilled his blood for the Church. Jesus spilled his blood for you.
How can I turn away from what he gave his life for? How can I run from what he established and desires to use to display his grace? May we persistently serve the church and grow in community, so we also display his grace.
If you find a perfect church, don’t join it. You’ll mess it up! There is no such place. The church is made up a flawed people, people like you and me who are in process. Just find a place, a people where you can commit yourself, be yourself and experience the messy miracle of being part of God’s forever family.
I love Jesus and I love his church - his bride, the household of faith, the body of Christ. I need both. I’m bound to each. One holds the power to save and the other the resources to grow my faith and bring purpose and meaning and joy to my life.
Let’s be patient with one another, pray for one another and let’s hang in there and not settle for less than what God has designed and desires for his church. Let’s love even as he loves!