Church: More Trouble Than It’s Worth?
Philip Yancey, an author I respect, has a book entitled Church: Why Bother? . I was sorely tempted to steal his title for this bleeding heart appeal, but I opted for a shamelessly blatant paraphrase.
I wanted to tackle these kinds of questions head on because I know that most of the people who have become associated in some way with this group have something in common: some bad experiences with Church, ranging from the merely frustrating to the downright awful.
I’ve heard a lot of valid complaints:
Church is too impersonal, too bureaucratic and business-like, more interested in being right than doing good, too judgmental, too loosey-goosey, too homogenous, too Republican, too liberal, too big, too small, too focused on _____________(fill in the blank)…
or I’ve heard painful personal experiences:
There was no place for me to minister, I got lost in the shuffle, I thought, looked, or believed differently than everyone else, I was told I didn’t have enough faith, I was told who to marry, I wasn’t growing, I didn’t respect the leaders, there was a Church split…
And the lists go on. Most of these are attitudes and experiences that I also can relate with as well, some very painfully so.
And yet having had Church and other Christian activities in our home for years, and having pastored for several years, I have to say it’s easy to be critical but hard to not almost immediately find yourself teetering toward guilty on many of these counts. If attending a Church is tough enough, those of you who’ve been along for the Aletheia ride have all learned that actively being Church is even harder.
Let’s face it: Church is tough because Community is tough- love is tough- honesty and vulnerability and accountability are excruciatingly hard at times.
If you’ve been especially wounded in your pursuit of Christian community, I hope ACF can be simply a safe place to hang around. If you’re ready to jump in deeper, but have your reservations, I hope this is your opportunity.
But I can’t, obviously, offer perfection. And this really isn’t a place where we think (like some Churches I’ve seen) we’re going to re-invent the wheel. We know it’s foolhardy to think we’re going to be the ‘cutting edge’- we hope we can just be sincere in a few simple things at this point.
Yes, we have hammered out some values, values borne out of trial and error and difficult circumstances. I hope they serve as a safeguard for our community. But still we are all risking to some degree, and it’s in that risk that we’ve found meaning and a focal point for our Christian faith- a faith that was meant for community- a faith that flounders outside of consistent relationships.
Perhaps you find it difficult to believe in Church any more. We must all be honest. I’m not sure I believe in Church often either, I must confess. But all I can say is that, of a certainty, Jesus believes in Church.
Jesus doesn’t believe in a lot of things about Church, I’m sure. But He does believe in His flock of wayward sheep and His kingdom of ragged kings and tattered priests. And because He believes in it, I choose to take one further step toward the elusive but powerful reality of community in Christ. And despite all the baggage associated with the word, I still choose to use His word for it- Church.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
June 2, 2006