Doing Our Job Brings Trouble
Apr 30, 2012 by Don Payne | 0 Comments
Few targets invite more criticism, year in and year out, than the Church. In both scholarly and popular publications, one can hardly turn around without bumping into negative analysis of the body and bride of Christ. And the focal points of the criticism range widely, from theological anemia to cultural enslavement to dysfunctional relationships to various forms of abuse. Religious pollsters (especially those who publish books!) have made a mint showing all the ways in which the Church drops the ball.
Having grown up in the Church, pastored in the Church, and now teaching students, many of whom will serve the Church in some capacity, I get it. In fact, I have to agree with many of the criticisms. Yet, a note of reserve is in order. If the Church were to become the place that seems to be in view as the backdrop for all the criticism, that could well indicate that it was NOT doing its job. This is to say that when the Church is even roughly approximating its true nature, there will be broken people there; people who are messed up in all kinds of ways and are somewhere on that long continuum of restoration through Jesus, though sloooooooowly!
This does not excuse abuse or incompetence or heresy or poor leadership. It simply suggests that at its best the Church will never in this life be a model of relational and institutional health. It exists, at least in part, so that those who are without the healing, redeeming touch of God's grace might begin to find it and to incrementally get reoriented to life in the real world (yes, life lived in grace before God is the REAL world; life apart from that is always less real). And all that means trouble. It means that the Church will be populated with those are messed up and who mistreat others and in countless ways don't get it right. So, as we continue to challenge the Church and want the best for the Church and even criticize the Church, let's keep that in one corner of our peripheral vision and thank God for the messed up lives that keep showing up to get a taste of gospel. After all, someone else might be thanking God that you and I keep showing up for that, too!