Monday, May 31, 2010

when church disappoints - part 1

There are a lot of reasons why church might disappoint us. In this post I'm discussing the reason I struggle with the most: sin among church members. I'd like church to be a loving, forgiving, generous hearted, unworldly community that seeks to be obedient to God in all matters. Since marrying the Revd penguin, I've been exposed to more of the downside of church than ever before, because the minister of the church usually hears about or is involved in some way in all the muck that goes on. I know that we aren't reaching the standards that God sets for us and in my lowest moments I start to wonder if God is actually powerful enough to transform anyone.

One curious encouragement comes from the way that the Bible honestly describes what early Christian communities were like. Leaders sometimes seriously fell out with one another (Acts 15:36-41; Phil 4:2), there sexual immorality that unbelievers wouldn't even engage in (1 Cor 5:1), snobbery, favouritism and greed abounded (James 2:1-7), and people criticised and even abandoned the apostle Paul - the human leader God used to found the worldwide church as we know it today (2 Cor 10:10; 2 Tim 1:15).

It seems that early Christians were no better than us, and God has allowed information about their failings to be recorded for us in Scripture. So I shouldn't become too discouraged when I find sin in Christian congregations - we're all sinners who recognise that Jesus came to die so we can be forgiven. God is powerful to transform us, but he doesn't do it all at once: we are continually being refined and sanctified as we await our final transformation (1 Peter 1:1-9). At the same time I shouldn't become complacent about my sin or the sins of others either - the words of Scripture are there to teach, rebuke, correct and train us, there's no need to wallow in the muck that Christ came to redeem us from (Rom 6:11-14).

Those who have read my last post will have realised that I've softened the title - it didn't seem right to say that the body of Christ "sucks", so I've changed it to "disappoints", which captures my meaning better anyway.

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