Sunday, January 10, 2016

Defending The Church I Love


I have this incessant need to explain myself.

When there seems to be some kind of injustice to my character or misunderstood intentions behind words or actions, I feel like it needs to be corrected.

But today isn't about me!
Actually, in part, it is.
And if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are part of it too!

You and me, we make up the church.

We all "do church" differently.
Different denominations.
Different philosophies of ministry.
Different genres.
Different musical styles.
Different preaching techniques.

Church can look so very different.
Yet we are all part of the same body.
The same imperfect, messy, grace-needing body.

And our body is called The Church.

Today I feel this burdening need to defend the church.
The church I love.

Let me go ahead and "explain myself" right here.
I have been in church my whole life.
I have been a staff wife nearly the entirety of my marriage.
So I KNOW there is no perfect church to attend.
There is no perfect church staff.
There are no perfect church attenders.
And I would even go as far as to say that I KNOW that individuals in the church can be the cause of hurt.  Very deep hurt has come from the body of Christ.  It is unfortunate, but true.

But, no church will ever be exactly what you need.
Because what you need is JESUS.

I feel like there is this unrealistic expectation that has been placed on church staff.
As if the pastors in the church have some kind of "in" with the Heavenly Father that the rest of us don't have.

Here is an example:

You have been going through a tough season.  Whether it involves family, finances, marriage, kids, or job.  Whatever it is, it has been very difficult.

And somewhere in the middle of the hurt and chaos of your life you begin to have these feelings of neglect from the church.  You begin to question whether the church has done its job to walk alongside you.  You begin to feel resentful for their lack of participation.

Your feelings are raw and you have been made very vulnerable.
And out of that is where I believe the root of these accusations have begun.

Here is where I feel the need to explain.

My first question to you is this...
Are you involved in a smaller group of believers who are DOING LIFE with you?

If not, then that is your first problem.  You have neglected to see the importance of doing life with other believers.  You are disconnected from the CHURCH.  The BODY.  Just attending a church will not get you the support you will need as you wade through really hard life seasons.  The pastors in your church are definitely qualified (and called) to listen and pray for you and send you in the right direction for healing (i.e. counselor, therapist, other individuals or families who may be better equipped to walk through this particular season with you), but it is unrealistic to think they can be everything to everybody.

The people you do life with aren't just intended to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the lost in the realms of where they live, but to you and to me, other believers.  We work together to build each other up so that we can take that love out to the lost.  It takes some work on your part to find "your people", but so worth it to feel connected to the church!

Okay, so what if you ARE involved in this kind of group?
Then you need to be able to be completely honest and vulnerable with them.  Utilize the group that the Lord has placed around you.  Allow them to get into the messy areas of this situation so that they can pray and encourage you.  And in return you will be lending a hand into their own growing faith as they walk with you!

Here's where it gets a little sticky.

I think a large majority of church attendees who use this statement, "The church hasn't been there for me as I go through ___________" is actually saying that the individual believers who they have surrounded themselves with (who have cried with them, encouraged them, walked with them every step of the way) are less important to the body as the people who work in the church.

When did the Pastor and church staff have to be the only ones to carry the burden of the entire born again population?  That mentality is setting the church up for failure.  It is setting the church staff up for being burned out.  And setting yourself up for a lifetime of discontentment with the church and resentment toward church staff.

What about the people who you go up to after the service and and pray with?  This puts the ball in your court.  Are you making the effort to allow this area of the church to walk through this difficult time with you?  Have you taken advantage of those who are called to pray over us?  Do you feel less heard by God unless you are prayed over by the lead pastor or Elder?  Are the others on the prayer team any less "effective" in their prayer and sincerity?

It's a shift in thinking.  Do you see the effort it takes on both parts?

When a pastor meets with you and sends you on to a counselor or therapist, the church people shift, but the church is still being the church.
When a pastor passes your situation onto another individual or family who could better walk through this with you, the people walking through the situation with you shifts, but the church is still being church.

(This isn't even considering the other individuals who assume that the pastors are just supposed to know what's going on in their lives without going to them!)

If you are feeling neglected by the church just because the handful of pastors on staff at your church are not personally involved in your situation then, I'm sorry to say, it is going to be very difficult for you to ever be content at a church.

You are neglecting to see the multitudes that the pastors ARE personally reaching.
You are neglecting to see the church already around you, in a position to pour into you each and every day.

Just because someone is on staff at a church doesn't mean that they are in closer proximity to the healing power of the Holy Spirit or ear of the Heavenly Father.

So before you discredit the church and it's activity in your circumstance take a good look at the people who you have surrounded yourself with.  Are YOU taking advantage of the people who the church has set up to help you wade through a difficult season?  Who is the body of Christ who is speaking into you during this season?

Acknowledge these people as the active part of the church and the body of Christ that they are and thank God for the church he has placed around you.

THESE, my friends, are church goers BEING the church.
the dedicated prayer team
the friend who texts you to keep in touch and updated, letting you know he's praying for you
the small group of moms who have poured into prayer for you as you get through this
the family who brought you a meal
the encouraging friends who speak truth in love
the stranger from the outreach team who visited you in the hospital

Investing in you.
Walking through your difficult season WITH you and encouraging you every step of the way.

________________________

I am not the only one who has noted this unrealistic expectation of church staff.

Everyone needs to go read Jen Hatmaker's, For The Love.
Her chapter on the church was exactly what I'm talking about!

Another book that touches on this is actually one Josh read for his class a few weeks ago.
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