Recently there was a blog post doing the rounds on the internet which was getting a lot of shares on facebook and other social media sites. If you want to read that post you can do so over here but the basic message it conveyed was that people should stop saying what it wrong with the church and being critical of its faults and simply trust that she is beautiful and that God is sustaining it.
I feel that the author of the original post has made several flawed assumptions in her post. Number one is the confusion between what or who the church is. The post takes exception to all of the criticisms being made relating to church programs, whether they are relevant and if our Sunday meetings are too flashy or not quite flashy enough. One quickly realizes that the church being spoken of in the article is not the people who make up the body of Christ on earth so much as it is the Sunday morning service which is made up of professionals, volunteers and spectators (this definition of church includes attendees who may not be born again as well). While I cannot speak on behalf of everyone who has voiced concerns with some of the things that take place in church halls across the globe I can say that I personally believe that one can maintain a high view of the bride of Christ while still calling her to pursue holiness as well as challenging some of our liturgical traditions.
The second area where I believe that the post has missed the mark is in that it paints a picture of people leaving or criticizing the church as being disgruntled, disillusioned or just downright selfish. This is incredibly sad to me as I have personally experienced the rejection, condemnation and judgment that comes with pursuing Christ outside of the institutional church. And I have since spoken to dozens of people who have gone through the same things as they have sought to follow Christ into a deeper reality of ekklesia and community. Many of the people that I know who have left the institutional church have not done so for selfish reasons but have done so specifically because they wanted to start gathering around Jesus. Many of them have had lies spread about them and have lost many friends for seeking to follow the Shepherds voice.Those who believe that the church should pay no attention to what people who are asking questions or are on the outside are saying may be surprised if they just sat down and listened to some of the stories from those on the outside which brings me along to point three.
There is a sad irony in a reasoning that says one should not mention the churches flaws but then turns around and says that it is okay to criticize the people who have grown tired of or who are simply questioning the methods and practices of the church sytem. The church is not bricks, pews, programs and liturgy but the people who have been joined together in Christ regardless of where they meet. So when you are critical of the people raising flags and start calling them spoiled, selfish, consumeristic and biblically lightweight; it is actually you that is being critical of the church.
The last point that I would like to make is that the bible itself makes a case for open letters addressing what is wrong with the church. Paul wrote the Corinthians a letter to address their immorality and lack of brotherly love. He wrote an open letter to the churches in Galatia who had fallen for the false teachings of the Judaizers. He wrote a similar letter to the Colossians who were polluting the true gospel by mixing it with legalism, Greek philosophy and mysticism. Jesus himself had a message to the seven churches in Asia Minor which was delivered through John in the book of Revelations. Jesus did not feel the need to bite his tongue when he repeatedly said to those churches, “nevertheless I have this against you”.
Yes, she is His bride and yes, He loves her and gave His own life for her. But as many as He loves He rebukes and chastens. Certainly, His words and those of the other New Testament authors who wrote addressing the churches problems did so with a view toward building her up and correcting her path. And I will concede that not all of the criticism that has been laid against the church has been done in a spirit of love. So yes, before throwing our 2 cents in about what is wrong with the church we should all be prayerfully considering just exactly what our motives are for doing so. But sticking our heads in the sand and saying that it’s all good regardless of our fruits is spiritual suicide. Let us examine and prepare ourselves for Him.