The last few years have led to an explosion of a counter-church culture. Book after book, article after article, blog after blog, and so on, were devoted to why people leave the church and the problems of the church. I don’t deny that there are problems in churches – even healthy churches are messy and full of fallen people on the road to holiness and redemption. I also know that there are many churches that are missing the point of being a church. And there have been many valid points made by some of these books and articles.
But I want to provide an encouragement to you – stop beating up the church!
Jesus’ words are haunting for those who are in the “I don’t like the church” camp. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Further, John targets the “leave the church because it’s jacked up” crowd. 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”
Instead of beating up the church and leaving the church and slandering the church, let me offer you some exhortations and challenges to take on.
1. Learn to love the brothers
This isn’t easy. And people hurt you. And you hurt people. But did you know that God in His Word assumes that the church will be messy and full of problems? Read Matthew 18. Read 1 Corinthians 1-9. Read Galatians 6. Read James 5. Read Ephesians 4. Read Revelation 2 & 3.
After you realize that God knows His people are jacked up, now read 1 Corinthians 13 – the “love” chapter. Did you know that you’re required to love the church that way? In fact, the testimony of the Bible is that if you don’t love the church, then you are bearing the fruit of an unbeliever, of one who “abides in death”.
Learn to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. It takes work. It takes patience. It takes humility. It takes submission. It takes grace. It isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t for the unbeliever. But if you are a believer, then you must learn to love the brothers.
2. Learn to be devoted to the brothers
You will either be devoted to the church and ultimately to Jesus, or you will be devoted to the way of the world and the pursuits of the culture at large. But you can’t do both.
I wrote a blog post about being devoted to the church. You should read it.
The grace of the Lord is such that He knows that we need each other. In part, this is what it means to be human – that you need relationships! When God created Adam, He said, “it is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18). Over and over in Genesis we read that God created His image bearers male and female.
The point is that when God saved you, He saved you into His family – the Church. Be devoted to it, unless you think you know better than God.
3. Learn to build up the brothers
When you talk, only say things “such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Learn to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Along with your words, let your actions serve to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13). Sometimes this means serving others regardless of whether or not it fits your job description. Sometimes this means submitting to others even if you’re right. Sometimes this means supporting others in their ministry endeavors. But above all, “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).
I am glad for insightful people who point out glaring issues in the church. The church needs to be in a constant state of evaluation – using the Bible as the mirror and measuring stick.
But let that propel you into deeper love, devotion, and growth instead of walking away from the church, slandering the church, and believing the church is without hope.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”