The Problem with the Church
- At a funeral in Lubbock, Texas I was conversing, pre-funeral, with one of the attendees. "I used to go to that church," he said. "But I quit going. Too many hypocrites there."
- He swept the church away from his life with the judgment that everyone associated with it was living a deliberate and calculated lie.
- Any study of Christian apologetics has to take a look at the church because the church is the very visible face of belief in Jesus and an outcome of following him. You can't say, "Jesus 'Yes,' but the church 'No.'"
- This morning I would like to ask questions of the man at the funeral in Lubbock related to this matter of the church and the judgments he had made about it. The questions have to be asked based on an assumption that the man was sincere and that his resignation from the church was simply a matter of priorities and convenience.
I. Three Assumptions:
- The greatest criticism of the church is that it doesn't act according to its testimony. That it is somehow hypocritical and insincere.
- Examples cited in this criticism include:
- The fact that people within the church fail at work, in their marriages, and in their relationships.
- The fact that churches have internal squabbles and disputes.
- A companion assumption is that everyone in the church should be held to a higher standard.
- A look at New Testament churches reveals something quite different, however.
- The NT gives an unvarnished and often uncomplimentary look at these communities of people.
- Corinth with its worldly membership: man with his father's wife, etc.
- Galatia with its heretical, divisive teachers.
- Rome with its racial divisions.
- The seven churches of Asia mentioned in Revelation, some of whom had assimilated the culture.
- Part of this problemcriticism arises from the fact that Christians are often so criticaljudgmental about their neighbors as if the Christians have done a better job of living and are somehow more righteous.
- The fact that the critic did not include himself in his statement, "They are hypocrites," must imply in some way that he thought he was above them.
- It would have made no sense if he had said, "WE are too hypocritical so I left."
- This is in the spirit of the group of men who dragged the adulterous woman from her home (John 7:53-8:11).
- Or in the spirit of Jesus who said, "...take the log out of your own eye..." Matthew 7:5.
- When the man said he left, I wondered where he went. IF he was sincere, where was the institution that had no hypocrites. That was perfectly honest, moral, kind, and sincerely?
- Did he find it at the football stadium? Or the hardware store? Or the bar? Or the grocery store? Or at Kiwanis?
- I also wondered if the man retreats from every failed human being?
- Paul remarked that Christ died for the ungodly... Romans 5:6.
- Read "I drew a circle" poem. Filed in Logos.
II. Throwing out the baby:
- The guy in Lubbock had an equation that he worked from: 1) The church should be full of "righteous" people. 2) The church is full of unrighteous people. 3) Therefore the church is invalid.
- Generally when you find people who make such acknowledgements about themselves, or their institutions, you'll not like the outcome. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this reason. Matthew 23.
- They do not practice what they preach.
- They do things to be seen of others.
- They don't keep their word.
- They major in minutae.
- They are truly hypocritical, wanting to make you think they are better than they are.
- To the Corinthians he said, "...while there is jealousy and strife amont you, are you not of the flesh..." 1 Corinthians 3:3. He acknowleged their failings but did not leave them.
- He went on to say that their diet was milk not meat because they were not ready for it, 1 Corinthians 3:2.
- It implies that Paul wants them to grow. He will be there for them and with them through the process. Exhorting, encouraging, rebuking to get them to maturity.
III. What the Church Is and Is Not:
- In the third century, changes came that made a big difference in the nature of the church. Not good changes.
- The largest and worst change was the institutionalization of the church. What had been organic and nimble went indoors and organized, stealing the heart of the church.
- What the Lubbock man saw was the indoor church. Not the church that is flesh and blood. Not the church that is bought by the blood of Christ. Not the church that is made up of disciples of Jesus on their way down his path at varying speeds, in various stages of discipleship, and with differing degrees of success.
- What the Lubbock man saw was a human institution and not the bride of Christ. The church of which Paul wrote, "...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her...Husbands love your wives as Christ does the church..." Ephesians 5:25-28.
- If you love Jesus you have to love that for which he died. We're not talking about pews, gold leaf, and elaborate ceremony, but rather a host of flesh and blood that are united under the same roof by a single savior.
- Knowing this would have helped the Lubbock man to have a better understanding of what the church is and why the disciples he knew often had such failings.
- There are a few ideas that would have completely changed the way the Lubbock guy looked at the church.
- The first is that the church is not an institution in the "corporation" sense but rather a dynamic community.
- The second is that the people that make up the church are distinguished by their relationship to Jesus and not their success or failure in attempting to follow him.
- The third is that the church is deeply loved by Jesus and to think badly of it is to reject something for which Jesus gave his life.