Many years ago, a young minister was courting two women. Marie was beautiful & shapely but not too inclined to be a preacher’s wife. Myrtle was somewhat homely, but a wonderful pianist & singer. He didn’t know who to choose, so he sought the advice of an older minister who told him, “Marry the one with musical talent because she’ll make a wonderful partner for you in the ministry.” So he married Myrtle. On their wedding night, he awaited in bed as she got ready in the bathroom. When she finally emerged in her negligee, he stared at her, gulped, & said, “Turn out the lights & sing, Myrtle, sing.”
I’m afraid that’s the way many view the “bride” of Christ—the Church. She can leave a lot to be desired. A nice worship service on Sundays maybe, but pretty homely otherwise. But can you really love Christ if you don’t love His bride? Would you ever tell a man, “I think you’re great, but I can’t stand your wife!” If you insult a man’s bride, he’s going react strongly. Do you think Jesus cares about the way we treat His bride? She may have lots of warts & flaws, but He still loves her to death…literally!
In spite of all the problems with individual churches (small “c”), I still love the Church (capital “C”) of Christ. When I was a child, sitting in church services was not my favorite thing. In the middle of services, I’d ask to be excused to go to the bathroom, & then hide out in there a long time just to avoid the boredom. But once I got a little older, I realized how much I loved church. The youth group became the center of my life. As a sophomore, I decided to go into the ministry.
But I have to admit, I don’t love churches when church people don’t act very much like Christ, are hypocritical, & do ridiculous things in His name. When church leaders mislead through false doctrine, compromise with worldly values, & resort to pragmatic nonsense, I’m disappointed & discouraged. And if I am, then I can’t imagine how much the Lord is. I love the Church, but I don’t love everything about it because it’s made up of sinful, dysfunctional people with plenty of baggage. But if you find a perfect church, please don’t go there–you’ll mess it up because you’re not perfect!
The trend in declining church attendance has been going on for several years, accelerated by Covid-19. Fewer people are going, & many are attending church less often. Younger generations aren’t being raised in church, & not only aren’t involved but are downright hostile to biblical Christianity. This past Sunday we heard from a Canadian church leader who talked about what an anti-Christian country it has become. He’s said he’d never thought he’d see the day when it was criminal to speak against immorality.
Yet the Church in America may not be far behind. It’s certainly not very healthy here either. But is the answer to disparage & ditch it, or to embrace what the Church could become, & do something to make it more beautiful? Much of the criticism is deserved, but let’s not confuse the Church that Jesus founded & heads with all organized so-called Christian religion.
Some will say, “But I can be a Christian & not go to church.” I suppose you can be married & never go home too. Your walk with Jesus is connected to your walk with His bride. We can’t just then blend in with the ugliness of the world. We’re experiencing an extreme makeover as we’re transformed into the image of Christ. If you think the Church is ugly, the first place to look is in the mirror…because, if you’re a Christian, then you ARE the Church. It’s certainly easier to stand on the outside criticizing than it is to work from the inside to make it better. How are you making the Church more beautiful?
We want to do everything possible to be a genuine expression of the New Testament Church for this age. But it can be difficult finding a good church like that. My son who now lives in Toledo has had a difficult time doing just that. There’s not a “Christian Church” like ours in the whole city—one that’s teaching the same biblical plan of salvation & solid, sound doctrine. So his challenge is to try to find the next closest thing & try to make it better. And if that’s not possible, then maybe it’s time to start a new church.
The Church Jesus began & is still building offers a bedrock of truth in a confused world of unstable, shifting sand; a moral compass in a lost & wandering society; an oasis of love & compassion. It’s through the Church that God displays His glory & delivers the Gospel. It provides models for your life because we tend to become like the people we identify & associate with. In spite of our flaws & failures, we’re God’s ambassadors—His agents for change to bring Christ to every soul. That makes the Church the best, last & only hope of the world! When the Church is working the way He intended, there’s nothing else like it!