I have said before on this blog, but I will say it again. One of the best things I received from my masters degree at Rochester College was a deep appreciation and love for my local church. One of the things Mark Love continually taught us was that there is not perfect or ideal church. Each church has its own context and story, and its own bruises and scars. Even when we go to the New Testament what we have is a collection of letters written to mostly broken and struggling churches. There is no ideal church to restore, and no ideal church to strive to be like. The local church that you have committed to is a group of broken and messed up people seeking to follow Christ in their location and context. So Mark taught us that step one in ministry was to learn to love your church.
Eugene Peterson says, “On close examination, though, it turns out that there are no wonderful congregations. Hang around long enough and sure enough there are gossips who won’t shut up, furnaces that malfunction, sermons that misfire, disciples who quit, choirs that go flat – and worse. Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all have sinners for pastors.” – Under the Unpredictable Plant
In my young adult years, I was searching for the perfect church. I was growing to dislike my church and I thought that the church “down the road” had it all together. I thought if my church would just make this tweak or this adjustment, we would be fine. If we changed to this worship style, if engaged in these programs…just a few adjustments and we would be closer to that ideal church. But, there just isn’t an ideal church. Look closer at each one and you find a group of broken sinners seeking the way of Christ.
I’m thankful for my Hunter Hills Church family. I’ve only been here about 15 months, and we’ve already had our share of struggles and bruises. Before I got here and since this group of people began worshipping together long ago we’ve had our ups and downs. But one thing I’ve learned in my short time here is I love this church, these people who have become my family. I love our community and I think God’s got a great future for us. Even when we are soaring high and even when we are sinking low into the belly of a fish like Jonah, I look in at this group and see a family that I love.
And I think if you look with new eyes at your church, as good or bad as you think it is, you’ll see a group of people that you can grow to love. What if we quit striving for some ideal church that doesn’t exist, and quit striving to “fix” everything at church by adding or taking away programs (though these things need attention, but perhaps they shouldn’t be what defines us), but focused more on our life together and the kind of people God is shaping us to be. Not a people who have perfected the faith and how to “do church”, but a group of sinners on a journey to follow the Crucified Christ. When we learn to see ourselves and our churches that way, maybe we can learn to love our church, even with all of her quirks, bumps, and bruises. And maybe if we start by loving our church, maybe then we can see what God is doing and how he is inviting us to join him in his reconciling work.