Friday, February 27, 2009

Losing my Religion AND Loving God’s Church

I just read another article about how the church is missing it. Last week I read a book about how the church is failing. There are quite a few blogs (in the hundreds of thousands) that carry the same sentiment. (Inhale deeply). Since my Blogs are consistently titled “Killing Churchianity” or “Losing my Religion,” you’d think I’d be thrilled.

But I’m not. In fact, I’m done for a while.
Reading blogs, books, and articles about how the church is missing it, I mean. I’ve had my fill, at least for a bit. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pastor, and I love my church. Wow. There it is. I love my church. I said it out loud. I love my church. It feels like I’ve come out of some kind of theological closet. I LOVE my church.

Now, I don’t love her in a completely unqualified way. I don’t love everything about her. But I’m trying to love her in a completely unconditional way. In other words, I’m trying to love this Bride of Jesus like I imagine Jesus loves his bride.

And maybe that’s really at the core of this. The church is the Bride of Christ. The picture given to us by Scripture is that of a Bride. She’s not perfect. But Jesus himself loves her, Jesus himself is washing her, growing her, perfecting her, and loving her in His gentle, persistent, washing-dirty-feet kind of way.

So. Let’s place it in human terms. If my best friend is getting married, and suddenly: books, blogs, and articles are written about how fat his bride appears, how dumb his bride seems, how irrelevant his bride dresses, or how hypocritical his bride acts…I might find myself in more than a few fist-fights. HE loves her, and that’s really all that matters.

People who are a whole lot smarter than I am (minds I truly respect, and friends I honestly love) are skilled at voicing frustrations with the Church, and attacking with precision her myriad shortcomings. But you would NEVER treat your wife with that kind of disdain. If you did, I’d conclude you hate her.

Maybe your argument is that since we ARE the church, we can be self-critical. And certainly the Apostle Paul is a case study in this (feel free to start in Corinthians and work your way through). But I would argue that if ALL of our self-talk is critical, then we have a problem with self-loathing. And we’ve again missed the heart of Jesus for His bride.

So let’s bring a little love to the discussion.
There is incredible loveliness and victory to be found in the Church, all over this nation, and all over the world. There is noble sacrifice and generosity. There are sincere people struggling toward pure hearts and holy living. As Giglio says, “The Church is KILLING it all over the globe!” There is also a good deal of mess, because the Church is full of messy, broken people. But that’s not the Headline in this fallen world, that’s just the Setting. The REAL story is that Jesus loves her, anyway.

Can I get a witness? Anybody else want to come out of the closet and love their church?


mary venanzi said...

As the old song goes: "with all your faults, I love you had to be you."

I've been part of churches where Anger and judgement is the theme, but ive also been part of a church where revolutionary grace and redeeming love is the theme. Every church has it's own Fragrance. But we have a choice: to let our human-control-pride-foolishness-ego get in the way, and stink up the joint, OR to let God take over in every facet, where the fragrance of Grace and Power and Redemption floods the room, blessing everyone who's close enough to smell what God is up to.
My prayer is that Overlake would be like a pervading, potent, and pleasing scent to God, so much so that it would catch the attention of anyone within our reach.

I believe, with God's strength, OCC is repairing the reputation of Jesus christ and the church nation wide. And i'm honored to be part of it. We are still his beloved bride.

I heart OCC! :)

Wendy said...

Amen to that!
I <3 OCC!

dddddchapman said...

Oh Mike. Love this post. And must say, as one of those who questions and makes unpleasant noises about the hypocrisy of the whole church thing, I faithfully support you at OCC because I believe you've got it right; you're delivering on the real and genuine message of, if only everyone else could follow your lead...! :) I love OCC!

Sabina said...

I think your last paragraph is right on; however, isn't the greatest strength of being loved by someone the ability to be sharpened by that love? If my best friend were in love with someone that was objectively dumb, irrelevant and hypocritical I would encourage he or she to open their eyes to the truth of who that person was, and not just emotion. There's a difference b/w "voicing frustrations" and "disdain" and the importance of that distinction is that with the former comes growth.
The problem may be that many Christian churches are making statements that do not project the message of Jesus's love, and their message of judgment and self-righteousness become all that non-believers hear. My church, as I'm sure your church may have it "right", but that's not the majority. There is a difference b/w the weakness of man's influence on an institution of religion and the flawless foundation of truth on which it was built upon - Jesus.
Me and you may be more forgiving of the church's shortcomings because we already believe in the Man, and not the flaws. The damage is less self-loathing than it is repelling non-believers. e.g. our gay brothers and sisters and the discrimination they continue to experience from predominately "Christian" folks in this country. No matter what you believe, discrimination should never be tolerated, nor freedoms withheld.
Christians are discriminated against as well, and we should be able to be proud of what we do right, but the more Christians can do to acknowledge and rectify weaknesses the better. It's hard to stand up straight with only one good leg. It's not about being popular, but it should be about being loving.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I've read some of those blogs and books as well. I too love the Church but I can do without the "churchianity" you write about. I hope we can not only recover a healthy affection for the bride of Christ but also respond with humility and repentance when needed corrections are pointed out.

Bryan Derrenger said...

Right on Mike!
I Love my Church too. Always have and the part I love best about it is that it will never be perfect. It will always be a place that broken people can come to and hopefully find the love of Jesus. The Church I love is ours; it is not afraid to step out into the world that is dark and offer to be a light. Keep up the good fight and let's all get out of the closet.

Bryan Derrenger

Alison said...

Aaaaah - refreshing and so encouraging! "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken..."

Christ + Church = Ultimate Love Story.

Art Roy Remy said...

I have lost my religion just lately but the more I have freedom and authentic relationship with Jesus. But losing my religion doesn't mean hating the church. This is why I was so blessed what you have pointed out here. I am leader, a blogger and a speaker. One time one person came to me and concerning the decline of churches- wrong priorities, legalism, etc. has asked me "Why you don't write about these things in your blog or speak about it in your speaking engagements?" I answered him, "Many are jumping into that wagon all these times- telling all the negatives about our churches- and many non-christians are reading them. I don't want to add to that number." I rather make a difference in touching lives and pronounce more of the goodness of God that will inspire people.

I believe - "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

[OCC is an inspiration. I praise God for you.It reached me here in the Philippines through that segment- Cardboard Testimonies- and it really touched my life who used to be so broken and hopeless but now became a person who helps the broken.]