It's His, All His

So how do you like your church? That's assuming, of course, that you have one, that you attend one on a regular basis, participate in its ministries, serve in it, and tithe to it. Assuming all that, how do you like your church?

Whether you're the young person who slumps in the pew during the sermon and heads out to the DQ for a Blizzard with the rest of your gang after the service, the young parents who checked your kids into the nursery before breathing easy in the worship service, the older adult who has a hand-crocheted lap blanket marking your usual place in the congregation, or the pastor who stands at the podium each week looking out on this diverse bunch, I'm sure you have some feelings about your church.

I certainly do.

There have been Sundays when I left a Sunday School class feeling dissatisfied, a little put out that my teacher didn't ever seem to get around to the lesson. There have been weeks when I wanted to pull a few parents aside and share with them the basics of sending their children to the bathroom before the service. There have been Sunday mornings when I looked around at our church's auditorium and thought that if I have to endure that ugly dark orange (ugly dark green, ugly dark red...depending on the church of the day) upholstery and carpet one more week I'd surely scream. And there have been days when I sat through the sermon and thought to myself, "That had nothing to do with me. I got absolutely nothing out of that."

Surprised? If you know that I'm married to the pastor that preached those sermons you might be! Actually, thanks be to God, I can honestly say that my husband has fed me spiritually from behind the pulpit for over 21 years and the only days I've walked away from his sermons feeling slighted were when my own attitude was standing in the way.

Still, the truth remains, some days I haven't liked my church too much. And I'm not really referring to the building we meet in, the address we have on our letterhead, or the color of the carpet. Some days I've held my fellow brothers and sisters in contempt. I've been put out with their lack of commitment, fed up with the petty arguments, ticked off with their behavior, and tired of their disrespect for all things holy. I've wanted to gather them together and solve the whole dilemma with a hearty shout of "Grow up, for pete's sake!" As though that would be the godly way to put everyone in their place...a better, my place.

Now that's just the truth. It's the ugly truth. And I'll own it, but I hope you won't hold it against me.

Because I'm betting that it's also the truth that you've had similar feelings. Except maybe your feelings, depending on which pew you sit on, may be directed more toward the pastor, the staff, the staff wives, or, yes, fellow lay folk. My bet is that if you're a young parent you've been put out with your child's Sunday school teacher or nursery caregiver at least once. If you have a teenager maybe you've gotten ticked off with the youth minister once or twice. Or if you're a senior adult maybe you've felt neglected or overlooked.

I hear you.

We all have some ill feelings toward our church occasionally. After all, the church is a family and family members tend to get a little peeved with each other now and then. That's common, normal.

But then again, there's not supposed to be anything common or normal about the church. That is if the church is truly God's church.

Today I read in my daily Bible reading

Therefore take heed to yourselves 
and to all the flock, 
among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, 
to shepherd the church of God 
which He purchased with His own blood.
(Acts 20:28)

What struck me was not so much the admonition to the pastors or overseers of the church, but the way Paul described the church: the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

That phrase right there is the one thing that has kept me in the ministry saddle all these years. And not only has it kept me firm in my calling, but it's reignited my love for the people I serve over and over and over again. You see, I figure if God loves the church so much that He purchased it with His own blood, then I really have no reason to get bent out of shape over little things that don't go my way. 

You see this phrase confirms that Jesus didn't just die for me or for you or for my family. He died for the church. He loves the church. He considers the church precious and worth it all.

So if Christ died for the church, surely I can speak well of it, support it, confess my sinful attitudes about it and repent of them, go back next week even if someone offended me last week, give my tithe even if I don't agree with the budget, give a little grace, forgive, get over it. And I don't just mean I should swallow my grievances and put my big girl pants on and go put up with those "crazy people" because it's the right thing to do. I mean I should love the things my God loves. Really love them. And if He loves His church then who am I to get mad at it? I should love it too. Really love it!

If you're considering picking up your toys and leaving your church because it just doesn't suit you anymore, would you do me a favor? Would you pray about it first? And I don't mean pray about whether you should stay or go. Leave that one alone for just a few more days at least. Instead, pray for God to give you a love for your church, a godly, supernatural love. A gracious love that recognizes your church's faults, your pastor's mistakes, your Sunday school teacher's shortcomings, and that ugly green upholstery, and loves anyway. Ask Him to help you see your church the way He does.

Granted, He still may direct you to leave and go to another church. But at least you can leave with love in your heart for the place you are leaving. You can leave on His terms and not your own.

Oh be careful how you build your case about your church, dear friend. Remember, it's His church. He paid for it with His own blood. It doesn't belong to you or to me or to your pastor or to your family. It's His. And He loves it...

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