It seems as though there are many people who grow up believing that Church is supposed to be a safe place, filled with kind, loving people who love Jesus and never make mistakes.
Church is supposed to be a place where everyone is welcome, where there is always someone ready to lend a helping hand, and where we are safe to be ourselves.
That sounds fantastic. Really. But I keep hearing about situations where Church has not been those things for people. I just talked with somebody a few weeks ago who said he had “given up on church”. And that makes me so sad.
When Church is working well, it is a beautiful thing. But when it’s not working well, it is a heartbreaking mess.
What do we do with that? Church is full of people. Therefore, there will always be a bit of a mess involved. People make mistakes, and hurt others out of their own hurt, and do things in Jesus’ name that have nothing to do with Jesus.
And then people give up on “Church”, because Church is supposed to be safe and loving and the Bride of Christ. But sometimes the Bride gets nasty.
I used to be angry with Church. I loved Jesus, but the whole idea of “membership” seemed very ridiculous to me. Why would I want to be part of it? I saw a bit too much of the painful side of Church, the side that can destroy lives. I kept attending Church, but I had pretty low expectations. Church hurt me, too.
But there’s a song we used to sing when I was in Bible school. There’s a line in it that says, “Stand up Church with broken wings. Fill this place with songs again…”
Whenever I hear that someone has been hurt by the Church, that line pops into my head, and I have a picture of the beautiful Church, wounded. She was meant to fly, but she lies there broken.
When we see Church as needing to be the perfect place, filled with perfect people, who always meet our expectations in the perfect way, and always know what to say or do, and never make mistakes, or hurt us, or disappoint us, we have made it into something that it’s not.
We will always be disappointed by people, but we will never be disappointed by Christ. When we look for Christ in people, we will have love for them. When we look for Christ in the Church, we will find Him. He’s there, amidst the imperfection and pain. He hurts, too, along with the Church and with us.
When we look to Christ to meet our needs, rather than people or Church, we will be satisfied.
I heard a message by John Maxwell once in which he talked about happiness in marriage. He said that if we look to our spouse to make us happy, it will never happen. But if we look to Jesus to make us happy, our spouse will add to that happiness in infinite ways.
That’s like the Church. If my life is full of Jesus, it makes me so happy to meet with other Christians at Church. But if I’m expecting the people in the Church to meet all of my needs and demands so that I can then find Jesus, I am in danger of being very disappointed.
I believe that there is a place in the Church for people who can’t find Jesus on their own, and they need some help along the way. But true help will only come from being pointed in the right direction.
But let’s be realistic here – with thousands of years of hurt and bitterness involving the Church, a few little words typed out here is really not going to solve the problem. And that makes me very sad. I have a feeling that “the Church with broken wings” will remain that way until Jesus comes back. He will restore His Bride on that day.
And she will be beautiful, the way she was meant to be. Don’t give up on her!