After reading Jason’s post and all of your comments, which were incredible by the way, these are some of my thoughts on the church.
Churches can be backstabbing, hypocritical, judgmental places full of control-hungry individuals whose only concern is to perpetuate an us-versus-them mentality.
Churches can also be wonderful places, where people experience true love and community for the first time in their lives. I’ve seen this happen, and it’s incredible.
Churches can perpetuate stereotypes and manipulate scripture so that it says what is politically or socially expedient for them.
Churches can also help lead people through physical, emotional and spiritual healing, using scripture and the life-changing teachings of Jesus to alter someone’s life for the better.
Churches can be ugly. And churches can be mesmerizing.
In other words, churches are made up of human beings, and no matter how badly we want an organization dedicated to the teachings of Christ to better represent him, it will rarely be what we want it to be, simply because it’s run by humans.
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During the twelve years that Maile and I have been married, we have lived in six different houses in four different towns, and we have always been able to find a church that we absolutely loved. I only say this to try and encourage those of you who have a strong desire to engage with a church community but may be tempted to give up on the local church because of past hurts or current perceptions.
What do we look for in a church? We’re not that easy to please. We want a church body that to some extent is made up of people like us. But we also want that same church body to have some kind of diversity. We want to go to a place that encourages service and community involvement.
Most of all we want our church to be okay with questions, discussion and the idea that we are all on a spiritual journey, that we are all trying to figure things out so why not do that together?
We believe that there is something very unique about the teachings of Jesus, something life-giving and perpetually beautiful. We believe that one of the major strengths of Christianity comes into view when we focus on the full spectrum of the gospel: Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Redemption.
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Now if you have a chip on your shoulder against the church because of what you’ve seen in the media or the political arenas or past personal experience, I cannot blame you. You will forever be able, in this day and age of wide spread media coverage, to find plenty of examples to support the argument that the church is full of bigots and crazies. Maile and I have been deeply hurt by individuals in various churches, so I know at least a little bit about how you feel.
But if you are one of those folks who desires true community, and wants to explore spiritual concepts and ideas about God, and you think a church might be the place, don’t let it’s imperfections keep you from searching.
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The last thought I have regarding churches is this: grace. Ironically, the only hope we have of changing the church for good is by offering it the very thing it is supposed to be founded on. Grace. You rarely change people by arguing with them or pointing out their flaws – you change people by meeting them, engaging in life with them, and offering an unexpected dose of grace.
Speaking from the perspective of someone who loves the church, even with all of its ugliness and imperfection, I can only beg that you somehow find it in yourself to treat the church with grace and mercy. Because if you honestly care about being a catalyst for change, and not just complaining, extending grace and mercy is the most effective way to bring that about.