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.