Sunday, April 6, 2014
The Perfect Church
Do we expect too much from our church and too little from Jesus? I suspect that in the United States, we expect too much from the local church and too little from Jesus. Let me explain.
Church hopping is endemic today. American evangelicals are consumers of the local church and often deeply dissatisfied with what they have. Often for good reason. We want the best preaching, the best music, the best programming for our kids and the best of everything else. And we hope that our experience will change our life with Jesus - making us happy, fulfilled, and be there for us always.
I understand the frustration. Healthy churches are hard to find and even then they don't always fill the hole in our hearts. But perhaps we are looking in the wrong place for the fulfillment we seek. Not that the local church is unimportant, it is the Bride of Jesus and we are to be connected to the Bride. We need the people of God and the community of Jesus. They are our encouragement, our help and our ministry partners.
But - if the church becomes our substitute for our personal relationship with Jesus, if we expect that the church will fill the hole in our heart that only God can fill, perhaps our dissatisfaction comes from substituting the church for what should be a close personal walk with Jesus. The fact is, no church and no person can bring the joy that Jesus does. It can help us walk the pilgrimage of faith and we are called to walk that walk with others. The church is the bride of Jesus but it is not a substitute for Jesus in our personal lives.
We will never find the perfect church because we are in it. We can find the perfect Christ because that is who he is. We cannot abandon the church which is the community of God but nor can we substitute the church for a deep personal relationship with Jesus. He is the source of life and satisfaction. The people of God are a necessary bonus and the church is the constant reminder of the God we worship. The church contributes to the walk we have with God but it never becomes the substitute for a relationship with the Lord of the Church, Jesus.
John 15:4-5 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."