Have you heard about the preacher who packed up his family and belongings and moved so that he could preach for a perfect congregation? Neither have I!
Sometimes, I think Christians, and especially preachers, forget that there are no perfect churches, and when that imperfection manifests itself, we act surprised and are left reeling. But imperfection in a church is not in-and-of-itself a good reason to “bolt.” Rather it may just be the very reason you need to stay.
If you’ve ever been frustrated with your congregation; if you’ve ever thought about leaving your church family and trading them in for another; if you’ve ever been hurt by the church that is supposed to be in the business of helping, then may I share a few “true confessions” with you about the church?
- Churches, like individuals, need grace too! As individuals, we all recognize our need for grace. We fail. We are sometimes foolish. Though our heart is right, our performance is sometimes flawed. So we thank God for grace! May I confess to you that churches collectively need grace too? Sometimes congregations make mistakes. Sometimes congregations, intend well and perform poorly. Sometimes congregations are lacking in wisdom. Will you be willing to extend to the corporate body the same grace, patience, and forgiveness that is extended to you as an individual?
- Churches are filled with immature Christians. I am unapologetic when I state the church is filled with spiritually immature people. In fact, I’m glad for it! Where there are no spiritually immature people, there are no spiritual births taking place in God’s family. A healthy church will always have a mixture of weak and strong, immature and mature, carnal and spiritual people. So may I ask that you be patient with the weaknesses you see in your church family? We may not all be where you are on the ladder of spiritual maturity. May I further ask that you not measure the entire church by its weakest member? For every immature Christian whose conduct, attitude, or speech frustrates and even angers you, there are countless others who have attained to a level of spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness that is worthy of your imitation. Maintain perspective.
- Church-Hopping is a frequent form of conflict resolution. Though it is one of the poorest forms of conflict resolution, it’s one of the most frequent ones employed by preachers, elders, and members. Instead of stretching and developing our spiritual muscles of forbearance, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy, many find it easier to simply disappear and reappear elsewhere at a new church. The problem with this “solution” is that all we’re usually doing is trading “known problems” for “unknown problems” yet to be identified. Remember, there are no perfect churches. Instead of pursuing “easy,” maybe we should roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of reformation.
For every imperfection, flaw, and expression of spiritual immaturity you see in your congregation, there are probably a host of hard-working, spiritually mature Christians doing all they know to do to correct the situation. Rather than running from these church problems, may I challenge you to enlist yourself in the Christ-like work of resolving those problems?