It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon here at my house, so I’ve sat down here with a mug of tea to write out some of the thoughts I’ve been having today. (Edit: I still haven’t completely learned to like tea. But I’m still trying to.) Before I get started, I just want to clarify that I don’t mean to condemn some of the ideas people have, or the lifestyles they live. These are just some observations that I’ve made recently, and I’m writing it out here. If you see anything you disagree with, or have any insight for me, PLEASE tell me in the comments! I would absolutely love to know someone else’s perspective on the topic of the church.
I don’t know about you, but I have been to SEVERAL churches in my lifetime, of both ends of our belief spectrum. I’ve been from the mega-church to the home church, from the uber-conservative-and-legalistic fundamental church to the rock ‘n’ roll party church. Throughout this whole experience, there has been something lacking at so many of these churches which I’ve been considering a lot today. Now, I know I haven’t been to every single church in the world. I can only make generalizations, albeit by a small sample. But I don’t believe that I have yet attended a church that practices some of the key things I see mentioned in Scripture.
What I’m going to talk about is what I see lacking in churches. I know that a lot of churches seem to have it all under control – they’ve got the awesome worship band, the large attendance, the overflowing offering plate, and the dynamic speakers. Right? Sure. But there is so much more depth lacking in today’s average church, I believe, and I wanted to just cover briefly some of my observations. (Edit: it’s not brief. But hey!)
I was looking through my Bible this afternoon, writing down some of the things that Paul wrote when he addressed the believers at the different churches. Here are a few that I wrote down:
- Encourage the believers through faith
- The body of Christ – function in unity; help one another
- Truly love each other; act in love
- To not judge another; be accepting of each other just as Christ accepted you
I realize that there is much, much more to a church, but these are a few things that stood out to me in my one afternoon of research. I know that no church is going to be perfect – the church is made up of humans, and we fail repeatedly, ever falling short. There is never going to be the perfect church. Yet these are still things that I think should be prevalent in a church, and have yet to see freely practiced.
To consider the first point, I’m inclined to believe that this is a very broad term for what Paul is asking here. It sounds rather vague, but I want to think about it a little bit in-depth for a moment. How do I encourage someone through my own faith?
I think of the whole reason I started this blog. My goal was not to preach at people, to bash certain groups of people, or just write for the fun of it. My ambition, my prayer, and my aspiration has been that through this blog, people will read of my failures, my beliefs, the whole story of my faith, and be encouraged or enlightened by it. By my faith – including my opinions, my understanding, and my beliefs on controversial topics – others may be encouraged during their own failures, through their own beliefs, and grow in their own faith. Not that I would ever try to be the model Christian, because I’m afraid that if I tried, I would fail miserably. As would you. All that I can do is set an example, whether it’s a good one or a bad one.
I used my blog as an example of encouraging a believer through faith, but there are so many other ways to do that. Be it by conversation, prayer, lifestyle – I hope you can see my point. But I consider this specific command to be an intentional encouragement, not simply something that we pray will just happen. I view it as actively trying to encourage others through our faith in whatever form it takes.
I don’t recall having seen this through my church-attending experiences. Maybe I’ve just missed it, or haven’t been there long enough to see it in action. But from the churches that I have been to for a decent period of time, I don’t remember people trying to encourage me through their faith. Now, I admit that I did gain a connection through the last church I was at for a long time who has encouraged me greatly through their faith. I have indirectly known people through a church that I have viewed as good examples because of their faith. But in comparison with every single other church in the pile that I’ve attended over the years, that should have been more prevalent, in my opinion. I would love to see a church body that deliberately encourages many through their faith.
As to my second point, I admit I haven’t seen much unity in the church, either. I have seen many people acting for themselves, but I have not seen the body of Christ functioning as a whole. I have seen gossiping and selfish intent, but I have not seen people acting in unity, for the benefit of one another.
I can only assume that this is attributed to selfishness. See, this part hurts me. When I picture the body of Christ, made up of all of His children, I see everyone in the church as one of my adopted family members. Is it not biblical? I believe unity is one of the key things to a thriving family, and when it’s not exhibited in the church, it takes away the aspect of the family of believers. The people of the church are supposed to be the ones who are there for each other, who act as the body of Christ – how is His body supposed to be divided against each other? It can’t be!
Again, I can’t definitely that this is the way it is with all churches. But I have heard it be a common complaint about the church, and I’ve seen some of it myself. When we become the center of our attention, then we lose sight of those around us. And it hurts those around us when we focus completely on ourselves. The body of Christ needs every member to function for the benefit of others, rather than ourselves, to function in unity.
My third point – truly loving one another. When I say true love, I’m talking about something that we hardly ever see happen even outside of the church. I mean a selfless, sacrificial love. What’s so outstanding about this isn’t just that we rarely see this in action, but that it’s hard. It’s so hard to love people sometimes, especially as Christ loves us. And yet, we are called to do it.
Consider for a moment the people in the church that you believe truly love you, with that selfless and sacrificial love. Now exclude the ones that you consider to be friends. Who are you left with?
I’m talking about loving others outside of a friendship. We tend to associate this kind of true love being inside of a close relationship, but it doesn’t even have to be. To truly love someone doesn’t mean that you have to be friends with them first. It doesn’t mean you have to be friends at all. To truly love is to love as Christ loves each of His children.
And I fail to see this happen, probably more than my other points. We all want to be loved, but when it comes for us to pay the cost of truly loving others, we pass it up. We are desiring of a true love, but we are unwilling to exhibit it to our fellow believers in Christ. This is something that I very much wish was more prevalent in the church as a whole.
And lastly, that little bit that always seems to get thrown back in our faces at some point – judging others. For this post, I’m not talking about just judging people in general; I’m talking about judging fellow believers. Can you believe that this is actually very well-known in the church? *Gasp* I know, it’s shocking, but it’s true. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and many of the people that we know have done it too. It’s something that comes natural to us, like a built-in self-defense mechanism. We’re so quick to judge someone if it’s something that’s not in our favor, or offends us in any way. It’s like a second nature to us, naturally. But it’s something that Christ instructs us not to do!
What Christ does instruct us to do is to accept others the way that He has accepted us. That’s something that doesn’t come like a second nature. Our judgmental minds fight the idea of acceptance. It’s easy to accept someone that doesn’t offend, has the same values, and has similar ideas about things that you do. But when someone comes along who differs in many aspects from you, has a few outlandish ideas that need some refuting, and says something you don’t like, you’ll be the first person to jump on them and start judging them for what they’re doing.
Here’s the thing, though. Judging has its positives and its negatives. For example, if I were to see you helping some kid who had just gotten hurt, I might assume that you’re a caring person, just based off of that event. That would be a positive judgment. The kind of judging we’re talking about here is the kind of judging that most people think of, the negative kind. As children of God, we don’t want to beat down our fellow believers with judgment and negativity. This is the kind of judgment that we don’t want to have, that we want to replace with acceptance.
Acceptance is a hard thing, however. Believe me, I know. It’s hard to accept someone for who they are sometimes, especially if it’s not in your favor. Which is why it’s so common to see a lack of acceptance among the believers in the church.
Your mask may get accepted – the show you put on when you’re at church on Sundays might be accepted without any judgment. But it’s different when people find out who you really are, and therein lies the true heart of the people who make up the church.
Now, after all of this, I haven’t been trying to bash the church. Not at all. These are simply a few things that I have noted that our churches seem to be void of.