Thursday, August 13, 2009

Actually, I AM Looking for the Perfect Church

Ever heard these kinds of statements before?
"If you find the perfect church, don't join it, because then it won't be perfect anymore."

"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."
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.

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.
Just keep attending and giving your money, and 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 5:26-27

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
Does 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.

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.
If your particular church group is characterized by anxiety, suspicion, gossip, manipulation, dysfunction, or fear, look for something better--NOW. Don't waste any more of your precious time looking for a healthy meal in a dumpster; it's not going to get better without a demolition. You have my permission to go out and "look for the perfect church".

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.

7 comments:

  1. we've heard that one many, many times in the past... ("there's no such thing as a perfect church"...)

    after a while, you begin to realize that such a statement is just a blanket excuse, which is used to rationalize the refusal to hold up our actions to the standard of God and His Word.

    "There's no perfect church", is really a cop-out, a way of defending a church that has allowed itself to be just like the World, and also it seems to sort of be a way of under-handedly inferring that you're a silly, idealistic fool if you hunger for what the Bible actually describes the Body to be like... Kind of like saying, "oh grow up you pious weirdo, you're standards are just way too high"...

    Funny that you don't see Paul or anyone else in the NT say anything like, "Hey, we're imperfect sinners after all, so chill out..."

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  2. Mike, that's a great thing to say, that you're looking for a perfect church! Pulled me in, and I agree with your way of thinking about "perfect." It's a pretty defeatist attitude to think that the fruit of the Spirit is simply not available in this life. The whole point of meeting together, according to Hebrews, is to spur each other on in love and good deeds!

    I'm looking for the perfect church, too, while holding out hope that the one I currently attend is hoping to find (or be) one as well.

    Good stuff, brother, keep on writing

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  3. Can't agree more.

    Have been looking for it for the past 12 years.

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  4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer - “The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it,” Bonhoeffer writes. “But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.”

    Keep lookin but remeber the real problem is staring at you in the mirror...

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  5. I stumbled across this site while looking for inspiration in writing a vision statement for a newsletter I'm about to spearhead. The letter is just one more way to unite our local community churches-not under one roof, but in hopes of working together for the same cause. But as I read your blog on the perfect church, I felt compelled to write. I too, like a lot of persons who earnestly want a deep and meaningful relationship with God, have attended several churches of various faith. Early on because I was searching for answers, and then prior to obtaining my ordination, I felt it was my responsibility to obtain some level of knowledge about the so many different religions. In all honesty, it has been hard to find a leader that I could call my Pastor. Probably becuase of my own ego! But also becuase I felt that a Pastor should be without flaw. Now, as I mature in Christ, and make more of an effort to establish the intimate relationship with Him that we all need, I notice constant change within me-a process long overdue, and certainly, hopefully, an ongoing one. Love IS patient! At any rate, after visiting so many churches and studying the various beliefs, I find that I can agree with you when you write that the perfect church is not one in which all the members are completely sanctified and holy. Even Paul wrote about his daily struggles of warring against his flesh in Romans, chapter 7. Therefore, I think we all understand that as long as we are in the flesh, we will have a constant battle with our sinful desires. However, you are also right in implying that He calls us all unto holiness. That is why we are to constantly seek Him and practice doing the right things. No, the church is not what it should be, but what do you suppose would happen if it was taken away? As beleivers, we bear a responsibility to grow spiritually-that is to say, study and learn. The result of that education will be the bearing of good fruits. Only when we establish a true intimate relationship with Him, will we be able to find the perfect church. Why? Becuase first we have to understand what our needs are. And we have to also be tolerent and understanding of others who have not matured. My church fills me in every aspect of my being. It is perfect for ME, at this point in my walk. Are there situations that come up which discourage me? Only when I let them. But when these things come up, I practice what the Bible directs-that we talk with the person involved in the conflict to try and resolve, and if necessary, have a witness present, and then take it to the elders if need be. You can be understanding and loving, but you should also be ready to correct any wrongs. A church that is not willing to instruct its flock in theses things is like a parent not wishing to show some tough love to his child. There's a chance that parent will lose that child just like the Pastor might lose his flock, which is probably what he was trying to avoid in the first place. The Bible gives very specific guidance as to how to operate the church. But because many of us are more concern with the religious aspect, we lose sight of what God calls us to establish. My advice would be to find a church that follows solid Bible doctrine based on love. One that shows evidence of God working through it. One in which people, especially the leaders exemplify Jesus. And then accept that we are all human. It's so easy to leave a church and go down the road until you find the one that suits you. That's why I say that you have to know what you're really seeking. But maybe you are the one that God can make needed changes through. Finally, I use to find it hard to call myself a Christian becuase I fall way short of being Christ-like. But I have learned that I need to strive daily to be the perfect Christian. Stand your ground! Blessings to all. E. E. Alvarez

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  6. Thanks for your thoughts, E.E.! You are right on, I think. I should add however, that I am attending a local fellowship that is very loving and encouraging. It's not easy to find one though!

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  7. I understand, but remember this scripture, "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Matthew 24;11 & 12. Again, God bless us all! E.E.Alvarez

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