For a lot of years, “I love Jesus, but not the church” or “I love the church – in spite of everything” has been a cool thing for a lot of Christians to say.
I used to be one of those people. Not any more.
I love the church. No apologies. No qualifiers.
I’ve learned in the last few years that what I thought I didn’t like about the church – well it turns out that wasn’t the church after all. It was an imposter – a poser.
“They Like Jesus, But Not the Church” makes sense. “We like Jesus, but not the church” is sad and kind of sick, in a way. After all, the church IS US!
If I don’t like something about the church, I have a responsibility to change it because “it” is “us” and “us” is “ME”!
The Church Kid
If anyone on earth has serious reasons to love the church it should be me. I’m a third-generation pastor. My grandparents and parents met because of the church. I was born while my dad was preaching.
Some of my best memories of growing up were in and around church and church activities.
I met my wife in church, married her in a church, and had my kids dedicated in a church.
Every paycheck ever I’ve earned as an adult has had the name of a church in top, left-hand corner.
Yet all of that pales to the four main reasons I love the church.
1. Jesus Loves the Church
If you do a Bible Study on religion, you’ll find a lot of bad news. But if you do a Bible Study on the church it’s almost entirely good news. Religion gets a bad rap in the bible. But the church doesn’t.
Even when people in specific churches are a mess (hello Corinth!), when you study the 114 bible verses with “church” in them, it adds up to a glowing review.
In the church verses of the bible, you’ll see people who send missionaries, care for travelers, share everything they have, encourage the hurting, care for the poor, teach God’s Word, support the weak and pray for each other.
Of all the church verses, the only real negatives I can find are in Revelation 2 & 3.
The rest of the New Testament church verses are practically a Valentine’s card to God’s people.
This is especially surprising since the bible isn’t shy about showing the warts of its heroes. But the church comes through, not only almost unscathed, but with praise reserved for no one else but Jesus himself. Especially in the “bride of Christ” passages.
But the New Testament makes it very clear that this phony church isn’t the church.
2. The Church Loves Christ
I’ve learned to be a grateful member of my local church, because when the church really loves Jesus there’s no place on earth like it. This is also the best way to identify the real church from the posers.
I have been hurt by people in churches. But I was also healed by Jesus through people in churches.
When a local church is in love with Jesus, it shows up in the most amazing, transformative actions. A church that really loves Jesus is one that will love each other and their community in deep, sacrificial ways. In my experience, this is especially true in a Small Church setting, where people really know each other.
It’s a beautiful thing to see it in action.
3. Through the Church, I Came to Love Jesus – And Know that He Loves Me
It’s easy to forget this sometimes.
If the church never did another good thing for me, this would be enough for me to love her forever.
I have been saved out of hell and into heaven. And Jesus used the church – the fellowship and testimony of others who know and love Jesus – to accomplish that purpose.
4. The Power of the Church
Years ago, Gandhi criticized Christians by saying, “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside-down, and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as nothing more than a piece of good literature.”
Gandhi was right.
I think we under-value the church in the same way we under-value the bible. The church of Jesus has extraordinary, literally miraculous power, but we often treat the awesomeness of the church like a job, a duty, or an embarrassment. Then we wonder where the power and joy disappeared to.
Never again. Not for me, anyway.
From now on I plan to see the church how God sees her.
Through the church. Through you and me. By the presence of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, God has chosen to make his wisdom known to the world.
Serving the church, and serving God through her, is the greatest honor I will ever know.
So what do you think? Have you ever been tempted to turn away from the church? Was it because the church was being the church, or because it wasn’t?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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