"If you find the perfect church, don't join it, because then it won't be perfect anymore."I get the point. True, there are no perfect people, so if you put a bunch of them together there will be flaws. And to look for any group of people that will meet your every human need and never disappoint you is a vain pursuit. I get that.
"If you should find the perfect church
Without one fault or smear,
For goodness sake! Don't join that church
You'd spoil the atmosphere."
But let's cut to the chase: These are statements typically made by people that want you to join (or stay in) their church, but don't want you to criticize anything that you might find wrong. Right?
- Is there a culture of gossip in the church? Don't criticize, there's no perfect church.
- Is there favoritism toward the rich? Don't criticize, there's no perfect church.
- Is there corruption in the leadership? Don't criticize, there's no perfect church.
- Are people in positions they are not gifted for? Don't criticize, there's no perfect church.
- Is scripture used inappropriately to manipulate people's insecurities? Don't criticize, there's no perfect church.
- Are the relationships in the church co-dependent or abusive? Don't criticize, there's no perfect church.
- Are all tough questions answered with a pat answer from the "inner circle"? Don't criticize, there's no perfect church.
But actually, I am looking for the perfect church. As it turns out, so is Jesus:
"He [Jesus] gave up his life for her [the church] to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish." - Ephesians 5:26-27Does this mean I expect to be treated perfectly by every believer? No, I don't. Does this mean I expect moral perfection and impeccable behavior? No. Does this mean I expect every believer to have no struggle with any vice? Of course not. Is that Jesus' real goal for his church on earth? No.
Jesus prayed to the Father: "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they [the church] may be perfected in unity..." - John 17:22-23
What I do expect from the church is that it will display the same qualities of love, peace, courage, forgiveness, grace, hope, conviction, and faith that Jesus did.
A perfect church is not made up of perfect people--it simply expresses the spirit of Jesus, who is perfect.
Is this too much to expect? I don't think so--I've seen it happen:
- I've been in churches that are anxious, and ones that are peaceful.
- I've been in churches that gossip, and ones that refuse to.
- I've been in churches that abuse people, and ones that don't.
- I've been in churches that control and manipulate the weak, and ones that don't.
- I've been in churches that stir up guilt, and ones that understand grace.
You may have to wander in the wilderness to find it, but it's there.
...and as it turns out, the perfect church is not made up of perfect people at all!
If you have discovered a relationship with fellow believers that is peaceful, open, honest, free, emotionally healthy, growing, and full of faith--you have found the perfect church! Live in it, participate, use your gifts, glorify God, and tell people the good news you have discovered.
Jesus is creating the perfect church, and yes, you CAN find it.