Monday, February 9, 2009

Why I Think the Church is Amazing (Even Though We Don't All Get Cool Buildings Like This One)

Church bashing is in. And no wonder. It's very easy. All you have to do is be attuned to the failures of others. Everyone has a story, or two, or twenty, of how lame/boring/hurtful their experience of church has been.

But what about the stories of how amazing/unbelievable/inspiring the Church can be? (For shameless book plug go here.)

Even by conservative estimates, this past weekend over 50 million Americans attended church. No law forced them to. They just went. Sure, we might see enormous stadiums full of people gathered on Sundays to watch grown men in battle gear run into each other, sometimes paying large sums of money to sit in the freezing cold for four hours just to watch them do it. But don't be over-impressed by the crowds. What do 16 stadiums add up to? A million people maybe. And there are only 16 games a year, only 8 in your town (if you live a big town). Try having 50 times as many games, and playing them every single week of every single year for decade after decade. There would be a lot of people sick of football too. And I guarantee there wouldn't be 50 million people going the stadium every week.

What's more, lots of the people who came to church over the weekend did more than just attend. They taught Sunday school, handed out bulletins, played the guitar, stacked chairs, and held babies in the nursery--all without getting a dime for any of it. In fact, many of the 50 million gave money over this weekend. Sure, not as much as they should, on average. But millions still gave and they gave millions. They didn't have to. Congress didn't tell them how much to give. No collection agency was going to track them down. But they gave anyway. And with that money the church will pay for disaster relief in Louisiana, a week of meals at the Rescue Mission downtown, some new coats for the homeless, a little extra cash for the unemployed in their midst, and a few more bricks for the school being built ten thousand miles away for people they'll never meet.

More than 50 million Americans gathered in sprawling megaplexes, storefronts, whiteboard meetinghouses, and urban cathedrals this weekend. And millions of them did more than just sit there. They welcomed the new family, invited the college student over for dinner, and prayed for the young wife who's missing terribly her husband in Iraq. They planned meals for the new mom, talked about raising children to the glory of God, and cried with the widower who feels all alone. No doubt, millions of Christians heard some bland prayers this weekend, and sang some awkward songs, and sat through some stilted sermons. But they still prayed, sang, and worshiped Jesus--a bunch of them from the bottom of their hearts.

Of course, someone else could write a few paragraphs about all the rotten things that happened in our churches this weekend. But we know that already. We know why we sometimes want to ditch the church. We get sick of the church because we get wick of people acting like people. That's not to excuse sin or crummy churches. But it is to say, you find what you're looking for. I can find faults in my church just as they can find faults in me. But the longer I'm at my church, the more I see how special my church is, how special the Church is. All I need is a willingness, or better yet an eagerness, to see what God is doing and has already done.

We don't need eyes to spy the church's failures. That vision is getting closer to 20/20 all the time. What we need eyes for are all the reasons we should love the church. The reasons are out there. We just need to open our eyes and smell the cheap coffee brewing in the foyer.


Kim K. said...

Thanks for the reminder.

davidanthonyporter said...


Well said!

ZSB said...

...or the gourmet coffee brewing in my study. The Xers know they can sneak in and grab a cup ;)

Great post. I'm really looking forward to the book!

Hayden said...


I preached some of these same type of thoughts this weekend to my church family.

I think CJ Mahaney has said it best in his book 'Humility' in the chapter 'Evidences of Grace'

Thanks again

Arthur Sido said...

I love the church as well, but I often question whether or not what we think of as the church is really the church. I am interested in your upcoming book, I have been pretty deeply immersing myself in the opposite stream that views the institutional church with the stink eye, so the balance will be welcome. Look forward to hearing from you at the conference next weekend at URC.

James said...

What makes her truly beautiful is that all that is good in her comes from Christ... and if I dwell on that a while, I am convicted about how I often speak of "the church"--as if one could say, "Jesus I love, but His bride I'm not so crazy about."

Thanks for reminding us that there is much evidence of His grace in her yet :).

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