A friend recently gave me a small book with the title: ‘Loving the Church; God’s people flourishing in God’s family’. The author, John Crotts, points out that over the past couple of decades there has been a good focus by Christian leaders on the family which has unfortunately devalued the church.
Some ‘family-focused’ Christians have decided to abandon the church in favour of their families. Others have replaced ecclesiastical authority with ‘patriarchalism’ (think Abraham, long beards, long skirts etc.) that will only tolerate the local church in so far as it is willing to conform to the demands of the family.
Whatever your views on the family, it is true that the church gets a hard time. If it isn’t just family-focused theology, there are the demands of parachurch organisations on their members time and loyalty, or straight out modern individualism – me and God.
Do you love the church? In a passage normally trotted out in pre-marriage counselling sessions, the apostle Paul wrote: ‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…’ (Ephesians 5.25). Jesus loved, and we may assume, loves the church – your church and mine. Jesus loves Trinity Church, and died for her.
As I get older I come to love the church more – warts and all. Sure, churches can infuriate, and even get it so wrong that they become ‘synagogues of Satan.’ However, that doesn’t give the Christian the right to abandon the church. Why? Because Jesus loves the church. The church is the place where my faith gains visible expression, and my weaknesses are helped by my brothers and sisters. I cannot walk this pilgrimage alone.
It is also, as pastor Bill Hybells has pointed out, the only ‘organisation’ that Jesus as left on the earth. According to Hybells, ‘the church is the only hope of a dying world’.
Therefore, to reject the church is to reject the love of Christ, and to abandon the world to its death. Something to think about.
See you next Sunday!