Church totally sucks sometimes.
Seriously though, it does! It can be so overwhelmingly hard, emotionally draining and if I’m being honest, sometimes it really stinks to be challenged when you just want to sit still in your ignorance, or unpleasant habits.
This past Sunday, our Pastor put to death a vision that has been in the works for years. Multiple people have spent countless hours planning, dreaming and envisioning a new hope for a second site, a satellite location for our church in a town near where we normally meet.
His pain and heartbreak as he laid these broken plans to rest (at least for now) was very evident. I remember when this plan started, it was very much Spirit-lead. In the beginning, I was there to see that. God had opened a brand new and exciting door. And yet… it is no longer happening. The door has been closed.
How on earth did we get here?
Of course, its been a journey, a progression of sorts. Big decisions aren’t made overnight, and nor are they changed that quickly.
Slowly over time, there has been a disunity amongst our congregation. Change is hard and it is scary for so many, and some people panicked at the mere thought. Others had varying opinions of how things should be done, what shouldn’t be done, etc. and the disunity grew and grew until the plan God had laid out shrunk and shrunk until it was gone all together.
And the disunity reminds us that church isn’t perfect. We are not perfect.
I read a quote before about church not being a museum of the perfect, but rather a hospital for the broken and it is very true. When you combine over 150 people who are broken, imperfect and flawed, you can’t expect perfection.
The world around us looks at us as though we are supposed to be the very example of Christ as Christians, and they hold us Christians to standards of perfection that are unachievable to anyone but Christ himself. The second that we show any fault, they are quick to call us hypocritical. But we’re broken people. We are flawed people. We are not Jesus, we are totally imperfect.
What we are is a family. Yes, we are dysfunctional in many regards, just like any other family. We are a family of believers who want to know Jesus better, who want to be closer to him in knowledge and behaviour. We are learning. Learning to admit our faults, learning to deal with things in a Christ-like manner, and learning to draw closer to him, so that we can be more like the perfect person he showed us. Learning to pray, to read our Bibles, to hear from God about the direction of our next steps.
As all families have dysfunction, you can’t expect any differently from a church family. People get their feelings hurt, people step on people’s toes, people feel neglected, people feel frustrated and annoyed. Sounds like any other family get together, doesn’t it? The difference is Jesus. His example taught us forgiveness and grace. He told us to drop everything and find those we have a problem with and make peace.
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24
Jesus didn’t want us to wait with unresolved conflict. He wanted us to deal with it, and get it taken care of instantly. He wants to see us with peace, resolving differences, and having unity amongst our family.
But I am guilty of the opposite. In my anger, I shut down. I walk away. I need space. I stew. I have the hardest time putting my anger away so that I may resolve my conflict. This happened to me within my own church. I wanted to abandon a family that I loved because of hurt. Instead, when some time had passed to allow calmness to brew, resolution came. And I can’t tell you how amazing and freeing that was for me. To be able to say these are my feelings, and have them validated. To apologize and to be apologized to. To restore the love for the family I feared I had lost forever.
I can see clearly now why Jesus calls us to resolve our conflicts quickly. I can see the damage that stewing causes, the time wasted in anger. When I took off the clouded judgement that anger left me, I was left to realize that yes, church can totally suck sometimes, but its also one of the most amazing parts of my life.
My church is real. People are honest about their brokenness. We pray for one another, and we walk through each other’s trials and triumphs together. We celebrate when couples get engaged, married and add new little members to their family. We cry when people lose their loved ones, when people move away, when illness hits.
We joined this church just over 5 years ago now. I will never forget being alone with 2 kids, all three of us sick, and my husband was 3 provinces away working. Someone from the church happened to text me, and found out we were sick. She phoned another woman on our pastoral care team and that afternoon a fresh, warm meal was dropped at my door. I was totally embarrassed to open the door looking like death, and feeling the same. I’m sure the smell that radiated out the front door was retching. But this woman risked illness to make sure I had my needs met. And then she apologized because the meal wasn’t homemade because she had just found out her husband had a minor car accident and she had to go rescue him from the accident site, but not wanting to forget about the sick, struggling Mom, she grabbed a whole chicken and the fixings and delivered it while on route to him.
Never in my life have I been so thankful. And yet, so anguished. If my husband had been home, he’d have taken care of me and the kids, she wouldn’t have had to stop on the way. But she did. She told me in that moment, despite her own struggle, I was still worth receiving a chicken that would allow us some strength to nurse back to health. I wondered if I would have had the same compassion to remember the sick mom in the distraction of worry about my own husband’s accident. She truly showed me Jesus that day, and in that moment, I knew this was a family I wanted to be a part of, and I dove right in.
I walked through some pretty challenging times within these five years, and many people stepped up to walk alongside me. There were more meals, one was made for me in my kitchen by one church member while I literally wept to another about the going-ons in my life at that time. None of them judged me as I handled my brokenness, instead they kept pointing me to God, the author of my life, who loved me and wanted best for me. They became a literal Jesus to me. They carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. If I didn’t have the support of the church then, where would I have gone? How would I be the overcomer that I am now? Would I have survived the darkness I was drowning in?
I have news for you. Life is hard. People are broken. Our hospital for the sick is no better.
But, we all know whose children we are. We know what is commanded of us: forgiveness, resolution and grace. Thank God that I learned that lesson when I did, and within the safety net of my church so that when the next storm of my life hits, I know where to turn. So that in your storm, you know that I will be there for you.
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10
Our purpose is to grow closer to Jesus Christ himself. We do this by living in harmony with each other, supporting one another and our leadership. We need to bring back unity within our congregation and I trust we can do by staying focused on the very purpose we gather together, singing and praising, learning and worshipping.
Let’s encourage our leadership. Let’s step up and fill in the gaps where there aren’t enough hands to do the work. Let’s give generously and cheerfully of our time and finances, in serving and praying. Let’s continue to walk through this very dark world together, united for Christ in love. Let’s comfort those who’s pain is so deep, and who’s burdens seem unbearable. Let’s praise and celebrate our accomplishments together. Let’s commit to resolving our differences, to forgiving our brother, to taking up our cross daily and remembering our church is called the Bride of Christ.
Above all else, let us love on an other. Love each other through the hurts and brokenness. Love each other through the joy and triumphs. Just love.
“We love each other, because he loved us first.” – 1 John 4:19