One of my favorite things about the Christian every day life is that i'm part of both a nearby church and also the Church having a capital C. For me personally, it is a mind-blowing reality that God has called his people “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), God's arms and legs on the planet. To think that God actually allows us to partner with him in his work is really quite overwhelming.
My fondness with this the truth is the main reason I've been saddened by a phenomenon I've noticed within the Christian community during the last few years. I've realized that whenever someone says something good about the corporate Church, he or she often (not always) feels the need to preface or qualify the statement by having an acknowledgement from the Church's imperfections. “The Church has certainly made some mistakes, but it's carrying out a really good job of [blank].”
Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I have taught argumentative writing for a lot of my adult life, and they know how adamant I am about rhetorical intellectual honesty, which frequently involves qualifiers-acknowledging the constraints or imperfections of the argument. Consequently, I greatly embrace the idea of acknowledging the Church's failures when the context requires doing so.
But saying a good thing about something isn't a disagreement. It's just a statement-and we don't commit to this incessant qualifying behavior once we discuss a lot of other imperfect things. So what is behind this disturbing trend inside the Christian community?
I have no idea for sure, however i hope it's not that we have become afraid of the cultural pressure to disavow and impugn the Church, to treat the Church being an antiquated, irrelevant, as well as immoral institution that does more damage than good. Unfortunately, I'm reminded of research done by Baptist scholar Brad Waggoner not too long ago and published inside a book titled The Form of Faith to Come. Waggoner studied 2500 Protestant churchgoers for one year and found that just 36% of those 2500 Christians could recall “a single time in 6 months they made a option to obey God if it might cost them in some way.” I have to wonder if the culture has pressured a lot of the Christian community into embarrassment about even associating using the Church. We'll admit we're Christians because we all know we need our “life insurance,” but we should make sure simultaneously acknowledge the Church's imperfections so that we cater to the tremendous cultural pressure that is pressing against orthodox Christianity.
There's a significant trouble with this phenomenon, though: according to Scripture, the Church is a sacred and precious part of God's economy. The Church is the very “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), and Christ may be the head from the Church (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23; Colossians 1:18; Matthew 16:15-18). When Paul chastised the Corinthians for their improper handling from the Lord's Supper, he pointedly and maybe sarcastically asked them when they “despise[d] the church of God,” insinuating, of course, that despising the church of God is really a very bad thing (1 Corinthians 11:22). It seems to me that allowing the culture to pressure us into being embarrassed by the Church leaves us only a short step away from despising it.
It holds true that we must not sweep the Church's mistakes under the rug, but I cannot bring myself to embrace this trend of tempering every positive thing said about the Church with a counter comment about its imperfection. To do this would be to send the message which i don't think much more of the Church than those who oppose it. To do so habitually would be to suggest that I view the Church as something under sacred.
When we glance around at a few of the moral chaos within our culture, you can easily seem like the Church has failed-that it indeed has become irrelevant. That is exactly what people who oppose the Church and God's word want Christians to think. But let's be reminded that it is precisely because of the Church that there is still any cultural debate at all about certain problems with morality. Otherwise for that Church and God's operate in it, all debates about traditional morality could have been lost sometime ago. God has done and is still doing myriad good things through his Church, and the reason and goodness that are inherent in the Bible-believing Christian community will be bright flames that can shine light in the darkest places. We should love and cost the church, both our local bodies and also the Church having a capital C.