Mike sent the following story. As a pastor, I see a whole lot of truth in it. I wish it wasn’t so.
“A man was stranded on the proverbial deserted Pacific island for years. Finally one day a boat comes sailing into view, and the man frantically waves and draws the skipper’s attention. The boat comes near the island and the sailor gets out and greets the stranded man.
After awhile the sailor asks, “What are those three huts you have here?”
“Well, that’s my house there.”
“What’s that next hut?” asks the sailor.
“I built that hut to be my church.”
“What about the other hut?”
“Oh, that’s where I used to go to church.”
When I first became a pastor, a visitor told a member of the church she would not be back. She decided to attend another church because, when we were introduced, I didn’t shake her hand hard enough.
At first, I thought I had done something wrong. Then I realized this woman’s decision had nothing to do with my handshake. It was about something else. And while I will never know her true motivation, I do, from time to time, encounter someone who is looking for a reason to leave the church.
A dislike of the pastor or the pastor’s sermons, personnel decisions, hymn selections, ending an ineffective program, arguments with other members of the congregation, not getting selected to sing the solo in the anthem, conflict over a parking spot, differing political views, styles of worship, biblical interpretation, the church’s unwillingness to bend to the latest societal trend, offensive perfume, the worship service lasting 61 minutes, and not having every whim catered to are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons people leave the church.
This is not how it’s supposed to be.
Sure, the church is an imperfect institution. It always is because the church is made up of people. Many times, people have difficulty seeing past themselves.
Paul gave the church a model on how to truly be the Body of Christ by saying: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32)
For all its flaws, the church is the institution that God created to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a world filled with fear and hopelessness. And whenever we let our own petty wants and preferences get in the way of our reason for being, I truly believe God mourns. We can do better.
So, if you are ever tempted to throw in the towel – don’t.
With the ever-worsening pandemic, an economy of the edge of collapse, and our society finally coming to grips with the much needed changes for social justice, the world is on the verge of a Great Awakening. God will want us to do our part. But in order for that to happen, we must be the church God created us to be.
Prayer: Dear Gracious Heavenly God, help me to see past myself. Help me to embrace my reason for being. Thank you for the Church and all the good that it does. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Err on the side of grace, put your shoulder to the wheel, and never give up. God is calling us to be more. I think we are up to the task.
I pray your day is filled with joy and laughter.