Friday, August 26, 2011

What to Do When Your Church Isn't Perfect

Sometimes, I don't like my church.

In fact, if I think about it, I've never felt like a doe-eyed newlywed who sees her beloved church as completely perfect, not ever. Even as a child, I knew churches weren't perfect--not the buildings with their sidewalk cracks, the people worshiping inside the walls.

It's not that I don't love my present church, my childhood church, or the ones in between. No, I love my church family as much as I love those whose double helix mirrors mine, with a heart that is fiercely loyal and achingly longs to be in the other's presence. With family of blood or spirit is that same sense of being home, at peace, comforted, loved.

Even so, every person who composes my church is like me--a flawed, imperfect vessel saved by grace. Stitching dozens of imperfect people together with the common thread of Christ's salvation might make up a church, but still, it will be a tapestry full of flaws for no other reason than because of the broken-but-God-mended people who make it up.

One of the lessons my parents taught me well is how a church family is much like a blood-related family. When I was yet a little girl, my mother was always upset over something at my childhood church. There were times when she would disagree with the way something was being done or not done and others when she was outright hurt by someone's actions in the fellowship. At home, she would cry out her hurt and disappointment while I took it all in.

And then? No, she and my father didn't yank our family up and plant us in another fellowship. We didn't just leave because we were hurt, disillusioned, or in disagreement over what Beth Moore calls a "rib issue." Although sometimes it would take awhile for the human emotion to go from boiling to simmering, we would always go back for the next service and the next, worshiping with our church family.

One time in particular, there was no one to teach the teenage girls' mission group. Instead of complaining about it (or in truth, in addition to complaining about it), she because our class' teacher. When the Wednesday night schedule would change without considering how it would effect our group, she would adapt, moving the group's meeting time, and we would keep growing in grace and well as unity, forgiveness, and love.

In my later years at home, my mother also showed me that listening to a pastor preach three times a week, even joining in the programs and classes with other church members--all of that would never satisfy my soul's longing for Jesus...only daily study of the Scriptures could do that. Once starting in-depth Bible study on my own and later joining her small ladies' morning class during the week, I learned just how big a hole I had been expecting the church to fill, a hole that only God could fill to perfection.

Perhaps her examples are why lately, my dissatisfaction with certain areas of my church haven't sent me running for the yellow pages but, instead, to my knees, asking God if my feelings of frustration are from Him or from my flesh, which selfishly desires to have my needs met over others' needs, to have things my way. And in response to those answers, I've asked Him what He's asking me to do.

This past Tuesday, a few of my church family started a new evangelism ministry, prayer walking in our community. After most people had gone to work, my sister in Christ and I walked on opposing sides of a neighborhood street, the two of us outnumbered by our combined seven young children who walked (or rolled) with us. For an hour, the children hung a tract on each house's door as she and I prayed aloud for each household.

It was the start of something new, something old. My prayer is that a fire for reaching the lost right at our doorstep sweeps through my church family.

But for that fire to be started, someone must strike the flint. Complaints won't ignite anything. Leaving for greener pastures won't either. But praying about it and acting on the belief that "the change must begin with me"--it just might start a fire large enough to sweep across an entire entire world.

And if the fire remains small, grows only to dwindle again, or goes out completely? I, you, we must continue to ask--"Lord, what would you have me to do?"


  1. Sometimes, the easy thing for people to do is to make a gut-reaction decision to bolt. God bless you for sticking it out, for being who He called you to be in a place that needs you -- and that perhaps YOU need as well. May all of you be blessed for your obedience in sticking it out together.

    (Perfect is overrated.) :)

  2. Perfect is definitely overrated! Just lots of sadness lately, missing the fellowship of some of those who have bolted.

  3. Kudos for hanging in, for working through whatever the restlessness means. Nicely done.