6 Reasons Why I’m Not Giving Up on Church

Let’s be honest: It’s not hard to think of reasons to walk away from this thing called ‘church.’

youth ministry, student ministry, small groups, disciple-making, discipleship, Christian, teaching

(Photo by James Preston on flickr.com)

  • Church buildings across the world stand empty–they look more like monuments than movements.
  • Local churches spend more energy arguing over the color of the carpet or the style of worship than the lost neighbor next door.
  • Those who do want to reach spiritually lost people often grow discouraged as they face slow decision-making, church politics, and 101 reasons why their ideas won’t work.
  • Young people grow frustrated as older people won’t adapt and change; older people feel ignored or threatened.

It’s tempting to leave, to give up. In a world where we can worship with Phil Wickham, study the Bible with John Piper, and give to Compassion International all from the smart phone in our pocket, why go to church? And if the church isn’t going to carry out her mission–to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth–why not do Jesus’ work somewhere else?

I wonder if the apostle Paul ever felt this way.

In a sense, Paul was the ‘para-church’ organization of the early church. Although he’d cringe at the description, in today’s world you might have “Apostle Paul Ministries.” Paul travelled from place to place, sharing the gospel, discipling people, and establishing churches. And boy, was it hard work!

In Corinth, the church was proud of the man having sex with his father’s wife. Another man was suing a fellow church member. And talk about division! One group said, “I follow Peter.” Another said, “I follow Paul.” And the especially ‘spiritual’ among them declared, “Well, I follow Christ.” It’s so absurd it’s almost laughable . . . if it didn’t sound so darn familiar.

And Corinth wasn’t the only church having problem. If you look for it, you’ll notice that almost every letter Paul writes revolves around problems between Jews and Gentiles. And, in nearly every epistle, Paul–the great missionary of the faith–is spending his time defending his right to even minister. Finally, in Galatians 6, he declares: “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Paul’s tired of criticism!

I wonder if Paul was ever tempted to give up on the church. I wonder if he was ever tempted to say, “Forget about it. There simply must be another way to spread the gospel.” I wonder if he ever thought, This would be so much easier without the church. If he did, he didn’t act on it. And I think it’s because Paul had some core beliefs about the church that controlled how he related to the church. In Ephesians, he gives us six:

  1. The church is Christ’s body, and he is the head. We need to be ‘body-builders.’ (Ephesians 1:22-23)  I think of Jesus saying, “Hey, be nice to my body! I love my body.” We’d never say to someone, “I love your head, but not your body.” I think the church can gather in many ways, shapes, or forms, but the church is his body, and He is the head. We need to respect that. How would we relate to the church differently if we thought of it as Christ’s body?
  2. The church is where we find unity. (Ephesians 2:14-22) Sadly, this is a surprising thought to most–including me. When we think of the church, we often think of division and disagreement. But it is in the church that Christ has brought us together. When we gather with the church, large or small, one of our jobs is to promote unity. How would we relate to the church differently if we expected unity?
  3. The church is the dwelling place of God. (Ephesians 2:14-22) Throughout the Old Testament, God ‘lived’ in various places. Moses built a tabernacle, and God filled it with His glory. Solomon built a temple, and God sent His visible presence. And then Herod built the Jews a new temple . . . and nothing happened. God didn’t come. What went wrong? We see the answer in Acts 2, at Pentecost, when God send a pillar of fire and a rushing wind to consecrate a new temple. (Click here for more on this). In Ephesians 2, Paul tells us that the church–God’s people together–is the new temple where God lives. So when we gather with his people, we can expect to encounter His presence. How would we relate to the church differently if we expected to encounter God?
  4. The church is where God receives glory. (Ephesians 3:20-21) Simply put, if you want to bring God glory, be a blessing to His church. Be in His church. Because the church is one of the foremost places that God receives glory. He loves His church, and that brings Him glory. How would we relate to the church differently if we expected God to receive glory?
  5. There is only one church. (Ephesians 4:4-6) One body, many parts. Every part needs the body, the body needs every part.  One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,who is over all and through all and in all. Could Paul say it any clearer? How does this truth change how we relate to our local church body?
  6. The church is Christ’s bride. He came to earth to rescue her because He loves her. (Ephesians 5:23-30) The church as Christ’s bride isn’t some far-fetched metaphor, or passing illustration. Throughout Scripture, God describes Himself as a jealous lover (Isaiah 54, Hosea, etc). In a very real sense, God the Father sends Jesus to the earth to find a bride–a bride that He must win and redeem. And, it’s no surprise that one of the first things that will happen when Christ returns is a marriage feast (Revelation 19). The church is that bride, and Jesus loves her. She’s not always a radiant bride–that’s why she needs the ‘washing of water through the Word.’ But make no mistake–Christ loves her as His bride. You’d never walk up to me as say, “You know Rob, I really like you. But I just can’t stand your wife.” It wouldn’t go well for you! And so, neither can we come to Christ, claiming to love Him, without truly loving His bride.

These were anchor truths for Paul–the things that kept him going when all the data said to give up. When sexual immorality, legal disputes, authority issues, racial conflicts, and bitter division ripped through the church, Paul stayed committed. When lack of vision, or failed mission, or church politics got in the way, Paul persevered. He loved the church. Why? Because Jesus loves her, and if she’s ‘good enough’ for Jesus, she’s ‘good enough’ for us.

There are lots of ways to love Christ’s church. Some minister in it. Others minister alongside it. Still others find their primary place of ministry in another setting. And, there are lots of ways to be the church–some more formal, some less formal. That’s great! Regardless of our calling, passion, personality, or gifting, if we’re part of Christ’s body, we must be part of His church–because He loves His church. And that’s good news–because that church is messy people like you and me, and He loves us, too.

  • Rich

    The Church is like Noah’s ark,it might stink but it’s the best thing afloat!!!……….LOL

Animated Social Media Icons Powered by Acurax Wordpress Development Company
%d bloggers like this: