I know after today’s morning meditation, it probably seems like I’m becoming really “anti-Church,” but I want to correct that perception. I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, February 16th after returning home from services. Actually, I started to mentally compose this blog post while in church, realizing that my last several missives were particularly critical of normative Christianity. After I’ve said all that, can I really be supportive of the Church?
I reminded myself earlier that, in spite of the Church’s imperfections, God is in church. I know He was there today (as I write this). Here’s one of the reasons I know:
Pastor Bill and his wife Joan: We visited Millie in her Life Care Center in Florida where she is receiving treatments for the neuropathy in her hands and feet brought on by the chemo/radiation cancer treatments — this condition is reversible, but it takes a long time — thanks for your prayers for Millie.
I can actually see Pastor Bill and Joan doing this. Pastor Bill is an older gentleman with a penchant for the old, traditional hymns. I can see him expressing compassion, warmth, and gentle humor as he was making this visit, offering care to the sick as Jesus has taught us.
I took the above quote from the Prayer Bulletin that’s included in the general Sunday bulletin handed out at the door when anyone enters for services. The bulletin contains all kinds of information. If you’ve ever visited a church on Sunday, you know what I’m talking about, but for me, the prayer bulletin is the most “Christ-like” piece of paper I anticipate. It tells me that the church cares, not just the entity of the local church, but the church that is made up of hundreds of individual believing human beings, each doing their best to walk with God and to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
Yes, as I’ve said before, the theology and doctrine needs some work, perhaps a lot of work in my humble opinion, but if I’m in a church where the people pray for one another, and where Pastors, members, and attendees visit the sick, donate food to the hungry, and ask God to help the needy (and who among us doesn’t need God?), then they obviously correctly understand some of the most important lessons the Bible teaches us.
Today (as I write this) we had a guest speaker, a young missionary to the Congo which this church sent out four years ago, and who is now back on furlough to give his report. He’s a farmer from the small town of Notus, Idaho, and yet he’s also a dynamic speaker (a little too dynamic sometimes) who has a passion for his work with the Congolese people. He had to hold himself back to an hour since he’s used to preaching anywhere between three to eight hours during any given service in the Congo.
A lot of what Sparky (yes, that was the young missionary’s name) had to say reminded me of the message Conrad Mbewe presented during John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference, how although about ninety percent of the people in the Congo are considered “Christian,” it’s a strange and bizarre form of Christianity that blends Christian beliefs with indigenous religion and superstition, combined with other Christian groups’ teachings of health and prosperity theology. It’s really mixed up stuff, driven by demonology and magic fetish objects.
Sparky’s message came from a number of Biblical sources and essentially said “Don’t be afraid.” The Congolese Christians are always afraid. They’re afraid of Satan, of demons, of magic, of curses, of all kinds of things. Sparky tries to counter that in his mission as he did in his message, by saying we are not given a spirit of fear but of love and courage when we become believers.
While Sparky was teaching, I thought of my own so-called “mission” into the Christian Church. Although I see the Church, and particularly people like Sparky as doing a tremendous amount of good, there’s still something missing that, when restored, will take the Church the final mile that leads to the return of the Messiah King. As I mentioned, that’s why I’m here, why I write, and why I strive to move forward and to not give up on the Church.
There’s a lot of good in the Church. It’s easy for me and those like me to just toss the Church aside because our theologies clash in the extreme in certain areas, but that’s not all the Church is. The Church is praying for people. The Church is visiting the sick. The Church is teaching courageous faith in God that never gives up and that is never defeated. The Church feeds the hungry. The Church shows compassion. The Church loves.
And even though the Church has flaws and labors under a lot of misunderstanding, God has not abandoned the Church and on any given Sunday, you will find God in Church.
From a Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots perspective, it’s easy to miss seeing God in Church, but that’s because we are looking at the Church’s imperfections and not her beauty. This is the same reason Christians often miss the fact that God (again, in my humble opinion) is also in the synagogue on any given Shabbat, any time a minyan is davening, whenever the Torah scroll is removed from the ark.
God hasn’t given up on the Jewish people either, even though, at this time, they resist or do not recognize the face of Messiah, he who has come and he who will come again in power and glory as King.
It’s for the sake of both those worlds and the hope that when Messiah returns, he will find faith among people, that I must remind myself the Church, even as she exists today, still contains God within her walls. God is with His people, Jews and Gentiles. God is waiting. God is patient. God has a plan. He has a plan in the Congo with Sparky. He has a plan for Jewish people in Virginia. He has a plan for Baptists in Idaho. We each have a different role to play in that plan. We are all unique in that plan. The plan requires tremendous diversity of roles and people but all to an identical goal…the goal of bringing glory to God and the coming of King Messiah.
Once again, God reminded me that I’m only one small part of the plan, but that I do have my role to play.
It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work.
-Ethics of the Fathers 2:21
I don’t have to do everything. I don’t have to change everything. From my point of view, it may be that I don’t see me changing anything. But if I’m faithful to play out my role, God will do the changing.
16 thoughts on “In Defense of the Church”
For whenever Gentiles, who have no Torah, do naturally what the Torah requires, then these, even though they don’t have Torah, for themselves are Torah! 15 For their lives show that the conduct the Torah dictates is written in their hearts
Good post… It is a challenge to speak truth to my mother… both literally and figuratively. It is easy to see the warts… Seems the curse of the prophets in the Tanakh. They dwell but little on the good.
We live in an amazing time in history… Jews coming to Messiah, Christians coming to Torah! Breathtaking developments in the last couple decades that could not have been foreseen by either side, yet the Father is clearly in control as He awakens both.
Is He present in both on Sabbath/Sunday? I believe so, but He calls us to leave the outer courts and come into the Holy Place. ‘Further up and further in’ as they cried after Narnia’s Last Battle… That is what I see happening. We are all being called closer. That is where our mission is… call, cajole, prod, etc, our brothers to dig deeper, etc, but it can seem harsh and overly focused on the errors. Repentance is a bit that way, I suppose.
Blessings to ya!
Love covers a multitude of sins. If they are seeking to guard the greatest commandments, not only in word but in deed, then his presence is with them, I believe.
On the one hand I would like to say, ‘yes’ ‘the church’ had done much good. (and it appears in many instances it has, particularly in recent times…really!) On the other hand, does the endless persecution of the Jews ( I won’t mention the Camps, the deaths, the ‘all that distasteful stuff) ..plus what the so-called Reformation did to ‘each other/Catholic against what became Protestants…While certain ones in Christianity want to point out the endless ‘failings’ of the Jews…G-ds disapprovals etc……at what point in time does the Church need to examine itself before collectively passing judgements on others/the Jews?
I think this all speaks to why the Bible speaks of a remnant and not a world-wide power surge of redemption. Many believers will be surprised at Messiah’s response to them (think Matthew 25:31-46) because they thought they were doing good but they actually missed the point. That’s why it is vital to verify our understanding of the Bible and to help others understand it as well.
@ Pat it’s happening. If you watched Forgotten People by Ted Pierce, the pastor pleads with God to forgive the Church.
@ James and Pat? Is He present in on Sabbath? Absolutely. But at the same time let’s listen to Paul in Romans 10:1-4.
Check out the first time the word, “holy,” is used in scripture.
@chaya — Are you referring to the “holy ground” around the burning bush? If so, to what did you wish to present this as a response?
Regardless of that, I think you injected a most appropriate observation in your 18Feb,4:27pm post.
@Macher — I’m afraid the translation of verse 4 is one of the problems whereby Christians mistakenly conclude that HaShem no longer cares about the Sabbath or any other of His “laws” (neglecting, of course, Rav Yeshua’s words in Matt.5:17-20).
@ PL I agree but there have been more modern scholars that have addressed this translation issue. Not all, probably most Christians wouldn’t agree but there are some that agree.
I’m wondering if we can use the text ‘knowledge will increase in the later days’ as starting to be fulfilled as it pertains to Romans 10:4?
I completely agree with you James! (although there’s more to say about covenants) And I very appreciate this two posts. It’s amazing that the path of our thoughts so closely comes near to each other so far. I’m not such an extensive writer as you (I speak Dutch) but I almost could say everything you say.
I have to say that I come from a rich heritage of Godly people who came “out of Rome” and settled as refugees in the Netherlands, deeply touched with the Spirit and guided in the truth which, you guess, leaded them with their people out of the church. But they (as you do) loved the church because of God’s presence in there. And there we are: the first great break with Roman Catholicism. A second church was there: the Reformed church.
But the process of Reformation got stuck soon. The most Godly protestant preacher lamented of the deviation and ungodliness of the common people. And yet God goes on with the church, but it became a remnant. And this remnant now resides in many different churches. Yes you’re right, only a remnant remained. We have to remember, only Joshua and Kalev where faithful, two out of ten.
And what do we see? Not that much, we are blind. Don’t say that we see! We are all lying under the same judgement of God because of our sins, Jew and Gentile. But God sees the humble and the poor. “But I will leave in the midst of you an afflicted and poor people, and they will take refuge in the name of YHWH.” (Zep.3:12)
To see the beauty of God, whether in church or synagogue, don’t look at the circumstances. How far are we gone! What would we do but honestly falling at His feet? Blessed is thy Name! May He soon comfort us!
PL: Gen. 2:3 וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
I thought Dan. 12:4 referred to the internet, as run to and fro = y’sheto = same word used to say, “search,” the internet.
@chaya — Sorry about missing your intended reference in the example of such usage as Gen.2:3. I was searching a different translation, which does raise an interesting question in itself, about how English speakers deal with words like “holy”, “hallowed”, “sanctified”, and whether they recognize their meanings as set-apart, special, or even dedicated to a specific purpose. Other examples of “holiness” include a bride who is declared to be “m’kudeshet” (that is to say, dedicated to only her husband), and the “kadishah”, who is a “concubine” similarly set-apart by her special role in ancient society. In Gen.2:3 the intention is that the day is to be distinctive, special, unlike the other six weekdays.
However, I think I may have still missed the point you were trying to make by injecting into the conversation the observation that the first use of the notion “holy” is in describing the Shabbat. Were you intending to connect this in some way with the notion under discussion about people being able to find the Presence of G-d either in churches or in synagogues? I’m still trying to pick up the thread of your thought, here.
I’m not familiar with the term “shotet” as it appears in Dan.12:4 (y’shotetu). Perhaps it has become a term of use for internet browsing, though its more common definition is a sort of aimless wandering (to and fro). I could see how such a usage might develop, and I’m curious about how you came upon it? Now I need to ask, among my younger friends here in Israel, whether I’ve been oblivious to a new usage of an old literary term, and whether it might apply also to such notions as “window-shopping”. My idiomatic vocabulary can always stand for some additional stretching. I do wonder, though, if it may be too much of a stretch to think that Daniel was being given a hint about the internet, as if we should connect the notions of wandering aimlessly and of doing so through an increasing collection of data (knowledge), which would be in contrast to Daniel’s sealed book. Are we to consider that browsing the internet is a sign of the end-times until which his book would be sealed? Is there thus hope that this increase in available knowledge might help somehow to unseal the book? It’s an interesting suggestion.
PL: In regard to Gen. 2:3, I sometimes use this to pique the interest of those in the “Shabbat has been done away with crowd,” to make them think. The blessing of the seventh day preceeded not only Moshe and torah, but came before the first sin. It was a part of creation, eternal as long as the heavens and the earth endure, and as God blessed the seventh day, he never unblessed it. I read Rabbi Nachman’s book, “7th Heaven.”
In regard to, “l’shetet,” being the word used to mean, “surf,” the internet: I heard this back perhaps 10 years ago, when in English we would say, “surf,” – back before Google 🙂 So, I looked it up both in scripture and in an online modern Hebrew dictionary, and found it to be true. It makes sense that men will search the internet and so knowledge will increase (exponentially, beyond what anyone could have imagined.) Prior to the internet, this passage was interpreted to mean that travel would increase. But far more important, not only has knowledge exploded, it is available. People who can’t access clean water have cell phones, as they get them cheap because they are subsidized by advertising.
@chaya — Thanks for the clarification about why you cited Gen2:3. And ain’t it grand that there is always something new to learn? I did ask two of my young friends about “l’shatet”, one of whom confirmed its internet-related usage but qualified it as not applicable to searching or even to browsing, but his description might correspond with the sense of “surfing”. The semiotics are different though; whereas the implications of “surfing” suggest a superficial passage over a body of knowledge, and even the possibility of being knocked about or even “wiped out” by the turmoil of shifting conceptualizations and the raw power of superficial knowledge, the implications of “shitut” seem to be more in line with “aimless wandering”, perhaps “twittering”. I’ll have to investigate this further to obtain a more comprehensive sense of its usage, but apparently it is not considered suitable to describe “window shopping”, which I suppose would also include inapplicability to “mall-crawling”. However, I suspect that we are now officially “off topic” with respect to James’ intended discussion above.
As the internet has changed in the past 10 years tremendously, so perhaps the descriptors have also changed. I remember when we used, “surf,” frequently, and now I don’t hear that term.