I read a Facebook post this morning, with the post claiming that “the church” (not my particular church) turns a blind eye on mental illness and chalks it up to not having enough faith. It is another “the church failed us” story. I hear this person’s heart, I really do, but this post makes me mad and concerned as a whole. While it was this person’s version of the truth, I don’t believe it is the truth. Have I seen some church people like that? sure. I’ve seen sex scandals, extortion, manipulation, mistrust and all sorts of things come from people of “the church”, but to say this is what the Church is about, is false.
I’ve been seeing these kinds of post a lot. I now refer to them as “the church” posts, and usually has something to do with how the church failed an individual.
First off, when we say “the church” we are lumping a whole lot of people into a box. Taking a group of people and categorizing them by a trait (good or bad) is not right. It is wrong if I say “a black man broke into my house and stole my belongings, therefore all black men are thieves” This is a racial stereotype, and even if it is based off what I may have personally experienced or observed of a few and attached it to the whole, does not mean it represent the whole. There are so many other examples that lump “All Republicans”, or “All Democrats”, or “All LGBTQ” or “All Whites” or “All Blacks” or “All women” or “All Christians” or “All Nonbelievers” etc into broad categories and usually in hurtful and incorrect stereotypes that miss the mark of so many levels.
I want to be clear, I’m not trying to down play any real pain here, or discredit that there are problems everywhere. There are so many people that attack the wholes, and a lot of the time the problems are spreading more because we keep lobbing grenades across the fence at who we believe we are enemies with. We might have a particular issue with the one in the group, but the damage is hitting the ones not involved. Then we retaliate and attack back. We all have a long ways to go.
I can go on and on about all of this, but the focus of this post if to get to “the church” failed me narrative. A long time ago, I was in this boat with church hurt. I even had my hand early on in church ministry and it didn’t turn out great. For starters, as an individual, I didn’t own up to my issues and my part to play. Because of this, I ran from “the church.” I felt that I could do the Jesus thing by myself. I blamed “the church” for my issues. Yes there was some issues there with some leadership, but I didn’t make it any better, and I didn’t work to resolve it. It was easier to blame “the church” than work through it.
Over the next few year life got real. I secretly wanted a relationship with Jesus but was still bitter at my unresolved hurt from “the church” I spiraled out of control and was nearly on the brink on losing all that was dear to me. It was a follower of Jesus (“the church”) that I worked with that helped dig me out of a spot. I got connected with his group of people (“the church”) and guess what? They are all messy with issues of there own, but still cared for me. That was 6 years ago, and I’m still there. I love the church with all the messes that come with it. Part of our relationship with God involves us fellowshipping with others and working through our messes together.
Back to my original concern with “the church” failed us narrative. When we say the church is bad and full of corruption, I’d like to challenge us to see the beauty in that. “The church” is not a country club for perfect people. If we did not have issues coming in and out our doors, we would not really be the church.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,Romans 3:23
Jesus came for all of us, because we all have issues, and He called people to be apart of that process. These people are “the church”, and yes, some have more issues that others. You get this stuff from people, and it happens when there is a beautiful mixture of people in a group. That is the Gospel. Everyone, of all backgrounds, races, politics, genders etc have a seat at the table. Jesus’ disciples did not look alike or act alike. They at time even fought and argued with each other. Jesus personally called them to be His church, and we see some of them, mess and all become the early leaders of the church. None of this is perfect, because people are not perfect, but again, not a country club for perfect people.
Now here comes the hard truth. We have so many of “the church” posts because as individuals that say we are followers of Jesus, there are so many that lob grenades over the fence, without considering how it effects the kingdom. YES we have issues, and YES Jesus says come as you are, and YES Jesus loves and forgives us, but there is a call to repent and change our ways. We should not being doing intentional harm and hoping grace and forgiveness covers us later. As follower of Jesus, we should be asking Him to come into our hearts, and change us to look more like Him. I know that is not an over night process, but I also know it can happen faster than we realize if we let it. We can do better and show a better version of “the church.” Let’s work at changing this narrative together.
One last thing that I want to clear up. If you are reading this and feel hurt from a group of people that you call “the church” I get you, and I’m sorry for your pain. Someone failed you, or hurt you and that is not right. Remember that God has not failed you. While there may have people and even leadership that have failed you or let you down I ask of you to not throw away this fellowship. Ask God to help you and the people involved to mead it.
If you have issues or had issues with “the church” you attend, ask yourself; at what level is the matter condoned? If it is individual, then go to them directly instead of shutting out the whole church and fellowship. If it is a local congregation, I am sure addressing the issues can help mitigate a repeat of them. Ask yourself if you have a part to play and ownership in the issues. Bring that to God and work on resolving the issues together, instead of shutting out a whole God-given channel of growth and purpose. People in “the church” may have failed you at some point, but God has never failed anyone.
I ask that you hear our prayers. Come restore peace to your creation. I ask that you grow our hearts more like you. That we can put down our rocks and become more of a light. There are people that are hurting because of us, and I ask that you resort that. Resort the image of your church. Let it be something that never reminds people of pain, but only reflects your love. Let myself and others that call themselves leaders in your church be filled with wisdom and strength. We want to build the kindom up in your image, and ask of all of this in your son’s name.