It’s becoming fashionable to condemn and criticize the church. It’s popular, and you’ll get a following if you do it long and loud enough.
It’s becoming a favorite pastime of folks who are dealing with how the church has disappointed them or someone else. Blaming the church has become a default position for many.
There are a lot of problems with and in the church, to be sure, which need not be listed here.
However, I am becoming more concerned that some of these condemnations are unjustified. More to the point, I am increasingly concerned that we have forgotten how Christ himself feels toward the church.
Kevin Emmert’s article, “The Church Is a Harlot, but I Love Her,” depicts well the sentiment of critique that has besieged the local congregation. I agree with Emmert that some of the disappointments leveled at the church have more to do with the person offering them than with the church itself.
This is not always the case, of course, but consider the possibility of how easy it is to dismiss the church because it doesn’t measure up to your own ideal. Many times people expect the church to meet a certain set of criteria. If it doesn’t, they move on to the next one.
It’s as impossible for a local church to meet such a subjective set of expectations for each and every person as it is for the pastor to meet the subjective expectations of each and every member.
There is a difference between a specific critique aimed at addressing the need to change tactics in order to be more effective in ministry, and a general condemnation of God’s people because they don’t do what you think ought to be done.
The church through the centuries has had its share of critics, but the local congregation remains the body of Christ with all its imperfections and shortcomings.
I’m not ready to give up on the church’s ability to connect with persons in its community. I realize there are those who are ready to give up on the church, however, and I am deeply saddened by that.
There will be always enough disappointment to go around. The church isn’t perfect, which isn’t a glib acknowledgement to avoid seeking to get better at how we relate to each other or the world around us.
However, it is an affirmation and encouragement to know that imperfect people are welcome in the body of Christ. It is an awareness of our brokenness and need for forgiveness, and cause for celebration because of Christ and what he has done on our behalf.
It’s best to stop trying so hard to measure up to someone else’s expectations and instead rely upon Christ to build the church. This won’t end the debate or conversation about what’s wrong with the church, but I think it should be tempered with what is right with the church.
The church, at its best, is a redemptive people who exist for the benefit of those who aren’t part of the church yet. As Christ’s followers, the church is still the only group of people who are given the admonition to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”
There are going to be problems with that too, because we’re not always going to agree with how that’s done, but let’s get on with it anyway.
Let each one of us do some introspection and determine the change we need to make before we start figuring out what’s wrong with everyone else. And, at the end of the day, may we remember that it’s still about Jesus.
Danny Chisholm is senior pastor of University Heights Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo. A version of this article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @ChisholmDanny.