I love the church! Not just (just?) the church universal, that marvelous and miraculous Body of Christ composed of all God’s children, everyone who ever has or ever will wear Christ’s name, all the sons and daughters of God . . . Oh, I love “that” church, too.
But I also love the local expressions of that Body, the little bands of disciples—all of them small indeed compared to the grand Body from which they spring—working in a million places to glorify God and share Christ’s love. I love the church.
Oh, I know, loving the church is not always in style. Lots of “Baby Boomers” like me, sentenced to too much time in the 60s and 70s, find it hard to trust any institution. (And it IS unwise to completely trust the human side of even a divine institution.) Some folks, also like me, grew up in “separatist” traditions or groups who tended to talk more about “the church” than they did about the Lord of the church.
For lots of reasons, it’s easy to lose respect for the church as seen in her all-too-human local expressions. Some lose respect for the church in general because many churches are small, and our culture only respects “large.” Some folks point to little churches that seem short-sighted and poorly “run.” And some are. Some lose respect because some large churches seem so plastic and choreographed that they feel fake. Yes, and some are, and could put on a fine show without God at all.
And we all know that when bad things happen in the church, the spectacle is particularly unseemly. When a church gets caught up in power struggles all dressed up as pious piffle, or divides and walls itself off from the rest of the Body over molehills of supposed “doctrine” masquerading as mountains . . . When “issues” prance around like the old naked emperor with no clothes, most sensible folks (in the church or outside it) see how bad that looks. It’s like a hairy wart on Miss America’s nose or, sadder still, a cow patty dropped on top of a luscious cheesecake. It’s all the more ugly because we know how beautiful it can and should be.
But I still love the church. I’ve seen her beauty. I’ve felt the warmth of her embrace and seen the depth of her love, and the very best blessings of my life have been gifts from the Lord given through her hands.
I love the church, and I love the little church I’m a part of, and I hope you love yours. Through our doors and into our “family” have come F-16 pilots and janitors, 4-pound newborns and 103-year-old little ladies, teachers and farmers and brand new parents and brand new great-grandparents and . . . Well, an amazingly diverse group of folks!
Each Sunday young families do the hard work of rounding up and dressing up the precious little rug-rats and heading through these doors. Much older folks navigate via walker and wheelchair to these pews. Folks in every stage of life between infancy and antiquity come in to honor their Lord, to be a blessing and to receive a blessing.
And yet again I am amazed at what the Lord of the church does in the lives of his people.
I love the church!
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.