“Church.” Depending on your vantage point that very word carries a lot of weight. For some it is a word of intense pain, for others, it is pillowy soft. the church disappointed me. The church hurt me. The church came to my side. The church supported me. The church abandoned me. The church saw me through the roughest days of my life. The church ostracized me. The church is my family.
The church of Jesus is not very popular with some today. Some politicians don’t like churches because we don’t pay taxes. Others despise the church because they were scarred by somebody in the church years ago, and they believe everybody in the church is a hypocrite. Many believe the church is judgmental and narrow and therefore don’t like it. There are those who are a part of the church but who seem to have a love/hate relationship with it.
I have chosen to love the church and here is why:
(Note, I could give a very cleaned up “churchy” list, i.e. Because of its founder, because it is where the saved of God are)
- I love the church because the Bible tells me to: For some of you that may be hard to swallow but I’ve tried to live my life without a guide and it just gets me in a mess. And the world’s most proven and reliable guide is the Bible. So when Peter in his epistle says “love each other deeply” I have made a decision to do that.
- I love the church because it is where I can fail safely: Everyone – EVERY ONE who is a member of the church has admitted in the admission exam that they are sinners. Repentance from sin is a part of God’s plan. So in so doing, you are saying, I am human, I make mistakes, I fail. Sometimes churches get in the way of themselves and appear to be cleaned up too much. We are only clean in the sense that we have the continual cleaning from Jesus. I admit because sometimes church ends up looking more like a display case of trophies than a rescue site from sin that that is hard to love. But again, I have made a decision to do that.
- I love the church because it is where I can ask questions without repercussions: There are those who think you can’t ask questions in the church. I dare you, try it. Ask away. God invites investigation, i.e. Psalm 8:3. Now, the world seems to think this is not so, but oddly, it is the intelligencia of the world that will shoot you down. Try that. Find an atheistic scientist, professor, lecturer and question him. Suggest to her that God might be real. Ask them if there is any possibility they might be wrong. Then, get out of the way!
- I love the church because I can have fun with the people there without feeling dirty or mean. Yes, there are rules. Guess what there are everywhere. Even places that tout there are no rules. Try it, go to Little Caesars (just the most recent place to try the “there are no rules” marketing ploy) and try to go behind the counter and start dipping in the pizza sauce with your hand multiple times and drinking, open the register and take out all the cash – there are rules everywhere. Yes, there are rules in churches but those rules are ones that lead to greater long-term health and happiness. Leonard Sweet in The Gospel According to Starbucks, suggests that you may find more genuine fellowship in your church than anywhere else. When I go home from a night out with my brothers I don’t have to wonder if I committed a crime, harmed another, lost my wit and did something that when I am sober I’ll regret. I’m not suggesting that Christians never sin together but my experience says that long-term good memory fun comes here. I love the church because I love the people in the church – the flawed but faith-filled people who are IT.
- I love the church because it gives me instant family: Imagine you are on the road traveling in a city you don’t know well and you run out of gas. It’s late and the stations are closed. It feels like a rough side of town. Your family is in the car and it’s 11:45 at night. Your heart is racing and you see a group of 4 or 5 guys coming down the street toward you. What’s that in their hand? A gun, no, it’s a Bible! Would you feel better if you knew they had just come from a bar or a Bible study? I imagine you can answer that one quickly. I love that I can go anywhere and have instant family and friends and help if there is a local church there.
- I love the church because it does good: Tornado, flood, earthquake, wreck, broken home or broken heart, big disaster or small collapse the church comes through. It is not the corner bar, the Muslim mosque, the local association of atheists but it is the church. Same with inner city relief organizations. Check out most of the higher institutions of learning – they were started by people of faith. Research the history of healthcare and hospitals – they were started by believers. Who constantly visits with and conducts services for those in prison? The church. Who establishes crisis pregnancy centers to help women in desperation? The church. Who teaches the moral values that undergird ethics in business? The church. Who taught many of us older people, long before the Civil Rights Movement, to sing, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world”? It was the church. Who feeds the poor in your community? The church. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, who was there first with the most practical help? Who sent the most money without scraping any off the top? Who’s still there today? The church. Whether national disaster or local emergency you’ll see God’s Family step forward, yearning to help!
“Thank You, Father, that Jesus loved the church with His life. Even though we stumble and have our share of black-eyes and wrinkles, He loves us anyway. We’ve been cleansed by the washing of water through the Word. May the church strive to be a worthy bride for the coming groom. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”
Dale has preached for 40 years and is currently blessed to work with the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, TN. He and his brother Jeff run TheJenkinsInstitute.com that provides multiple resources for ministers and churches.