What’s wrong with your church? You can probably list a number of irritating flaws. Your preacher’s off-putting habits. Uninspiring music. Inadequate communication. Perhaps you dislike how the church allocates its money, or you wish the leaders put more emphasis on (choose one): youth, senior adults, married couples, singles, doctrinal instruction, local needs, or global missions. Maybe your congregation includes some individuals who deserve the label “E.G.R.” (Extra Grace Required).
We need to be honest about the church’s weaknesses. We won’t find solutions unless we identify the problems. But mere griping and finger pointing get us nowhere. How can you love your church even when it’s less than perfect?
- Remember how the Lord views the church. Christ calls it “my church” (Matthew 16:18). It belongs to him. He is the head, the foundation, the glue that binds his followers together. Like a husband who adores his bride, Christ laid down his life “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). Despite the church’s flaws, do we see its potential for beauty and greatness?
- Acknowledge your own role in the dysfunction. Of course the church is imperfect—you and I are part of it! My dad used to say, “If you ever find a perfect church, don’t join it, because you’ll ruin it!” Before complaining about others, how about engaging in some self-examination and taking steps to improve our own walk with the Lord?
- Decide to be part of the solution. There are times when it’s necessary to leave a particular congregation. If God is leading you to use your gifts elsewhere, then like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15, part ways as brothers and go serve somewhere else. But let’s not be too quick to give up. It honors God when we “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
- Trust the Lord to produce positive change with the passing of time. About 400 men joined young David when he fled from King Saul. “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him” (1 Samuel 22:2). Who needs a support group like that? David’s men were dysfunctional with a capital D—distressed, in debt, and discontented. But with David’s leadership and the Spirit’s help, in time those men formed the nucleus of a strong army. I wonder if some of them eventually were among those known as “David’s Mighty Men”? God can move a troubled church beyond past mistakes and old grievances to a new place of healing, reconciliation, and fruitfulness.
- Let God pull the weeds. Jesus’ parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-43) illustrates how from a human perspective the kingdom of God is a mixed bag with goats among the sheep, bad mingled with the good, and weeds growing alongside the wheat. A day is coming when the Lord will send his angels to “weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (v. 41). Until then, let’s keep planting gospel seeds, serving the Lord, and loving others—including members of the church who, like us, are sinners saved by grace.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.