Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 5, 2018
Mission impossible: finding a perfect church
A friend told me that he and his wife had joined another church because there was “too much bickering going on” in the church they left. I replied, with tongue in cheek, “I suppose it feels good now to belong to a pure church where there are no problems.” He saw my point, laughed, and said, “Well, we like it so far.”
I dare say it will not be long before my friends will be looking for another church. Soon they will find flaws in their new church. Churches are flawed because they are made up of people who are flawed. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people. In the church, and in every other arena, we must learn to live with blemished people.
Pentecost, the day the church was born, was a huge event for the Jesus movement. Peter had been redeemed by Jesus. He preached a great sermon. The Holy Spirit touched hundreds of people who, together, turned to God for salvation through faith in Jesus. As the word of God spread, the number of disciples steadily increased. But the church did not grow without problems.
The unity of a glorious Pentecost was soon tested by conflict among the new Christians. Though filled with the Spirit, those early believers could still argue about how the widows were being fed. Greek-speaking Jews complained that their widows were neglected.
Wisely the apostles called everyone together and worked out a solution. They agreed on a division of labor. Seven men were chosen to serve tables while the apostles were freed to focus on prayer and the ministry of the word. Everyone was pleased, probably because everyone felt included in the decision-making.
The apostles did not assert their authority and say, “We will choose seven good men to handle the distribution of food.” Instead they invited the gathered community to choose “from among yourselves” the seven men. Then the seven selected were quickly affirmed by the entire body with prayer and the laying on of hands.
The result was amazing! The church grew as the number of disciples multiplied! Many Jewish priests were converted to faith in Christ! People were excited about what God was doing.
Perhaps the key to church growth is not rocket science. The church does not grow when people spend precious time quarreling about trivial matters. But when God’s people cease bickering and work through their differences with respect and goodwill, then God grows His church!
Conflict will eventually divide and destroy. But when discord rears its ugly head, those who are wise can work diligently to overcome conflict with love. Love will involve forgiveness. Friendship cannot long survive where forgiveness is not offered and received. A forgiving spirit can end a quarrel about petty issues and heal broken relationships.
Finding a flawless church is an impossible mission. But we don’t need a perfect church anyway. What we need is a redeeming fellowship where imperfect people can feel loved and accepted despite their flaws.
I have been in a flawed church my entire life. And there are no words that can adequately express the gratitude I feel for the difference an imperfect church has made in my life. It would take a barrel of ink to describe the blessings a church provides for people who, despite their flaws, are doing their best to follow Jesus.
If you are looking for a perfect church, forget it. There is not one. But if you are not in a church, go find one. Get in it. Love the folks in it. Let them love you. Don’t look for the flaws in other people – and hope they don’t look for yours. And more than likely, one day you will be thankful, as I am, that there was a church that accepted you, warts and all, and helped you believe that God loves flawed people. + + +