Because I often consult with hurting churches (and fortunately some very healthy ones) I am often asked why I remain optimistic about the church. The truth is that I have seen the good, bad and the ugly but there are seven reasons that I never lose hope, refuse to become cynical and will always value the local church, domestically and internationally.
First, the church is the Bride of Jesus. That is what He calls it (Ephesians 5) and it is the bride that will be reunited with the Bridegroom at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The local church is God's hope of the world, and His local strategy for making disciples of His. How can I be cynical if He, knowing the best and the worst of the church still calls it His bride?
Second, wherever the people of God are gathered, the Holy Spirit is present. Perhaps this is why it is so hard to kill off a church! Where His followers are present, He is present and where He is present, He does His work whether we think He should or not.
Third, lives are changed through the relationships of a local church. We might wonder how given some of the obvious dysfunctions but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes this possible. This is why even a bad sermon can make a huge difference in the listener as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts in spite of our deficiencies (Romans 8).
Fourth, even in the midst of great church dysfunction (and I have seen my share) many of God's people continue to live out their particular calling (Ephesians 2:10) in spite of what they see around them. In one particularly dysfunctional church many people said to me, "I wish the leaders would get their act together but in the meantime I am just doing what God has called me to do. And so real and effective ministry went on despite the dysfunction of the leaders.
Fifth, my own spiritual growth is not held hostage by church dysfunction. I am responsible for my growth and ministry and frankly I have left dysfunctional churches without any guilt. I cannot speak for others but I am not willing to give my life long term to a congregation that I cannot bring my neighbors to. It is not sacrilege to leave a church. At times it is the only thing that will get the attention of church leaders.
Sixth, churches can be revitalized. I can attest to that after working with many hurting churches. It is the will of good leaders and the Holy Spirit that makes this possible. Where leaders and pastors are unwilling to face truth, churches should frankly die and let something new grow. But if the will is there it is possible for churches to become renewed and missional once again.
Seventh, Jesus is not unaware of the challenges of local churches and in spite of the challenges He continues to bless those who are committed to His plan for great fruit (John 15). He will bless the efforts of those who are committed to being the bride of His. However imperfect we are.
It is my prayer that I will always be hopeful for the church and never succumb to cynicism which Jesus never has. However imperfect it is His bride and it is His joy and we will celebrate His family when we arrive in heaven at the second coming.
Posted from Oakdale, MN
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