Contend Earnestly: The Church Sucks: The Facts (Part 1)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Church Sucks: The Facts (Part 1)

I debated whether or not to title this post, "Church Sucks" or "The Church Sucks", but figured, without the invisible church, there would be no visible church or church as an organizational structure. So, why not start at the root instead of the branches. I know some of you are throwing up in your mouth when you hear me refer to church as an organizational structure, but in some form, it definitely is. But, however I titled this post, the fact is, the church sucks. The reason I write this post, is because in reaction to this fact, people are abandoning the church and deciding to live out their faith without community, or in ways contra to the formal, organized church. Which I find to be an overreaction to the facts laid before us.

If you have been apart of the church for any number of years, you know that this is definitely true. There are petty arguments that we continually have that seem to have very little to do with the mission of Jesus and making him known. Most of us have been totally lost on how some people could act, what certain things are argued over and how some things seem to continually creep in. But, the fact to be argued isn't, "Does the church suck?" because that should be well established. The fact to be argued should be, "Why does this surprise us?"

Tim Keller was the first I heard talk about why the church sucketh so (In his book, "The Reason for God"...which is pretty funny when you think of it). He mentioned, and I am paraphrasing here, that the reason the church is so filled with hypocrites is because the church is filled with the worst of sinners.

Let's work through some of this together on why the church, meaning, the gathering of the elect of God, sucks so bad and sometimes is very hard to be around.

We have all had those times where we can't believe what is going on in the church. Whether it is figuring out a budget, the color of the carpet in that weird room in corner of the building that's called "the prayer room", whether or not we should "support" a missionary by giving them $50 a month or $75 a month, or whether or not the bulletin should have a picture of an old country church or sun rays coming through clouds. These arguments all seem retarded when thinking through the mission of God. But, since most of us aren't oddball Regulative Principle Wackos (that's a jab for all my friends who are...which I am sure they'll comment, and if they better be funny or I won't accept the comment ;)), there are many things we aren't told in regards to what to do as the Church gathers. We aren't told:

- What day and time to come together as the church gathered (notice I didn't say worship, as this should be everyday)
- What kind of building we should be in
- What songs to sing
- How many songs to sing
- How long to preach
- What we should wear (although the NT only talks in the negative for those who dress up in church, and I'm pretty sure that Jesus is against those shirts with bible verses and sunsets)
- How to set up the chairs (or the pews if you are a Reformed Baptist)
- Which instruments to use and whether or not we should allow that lady to sing who's voice sounds like a used up car horn
- How often to take communion

I could continue this list for a while. The point being is that we are living in the NT, we are the church continued, and many details are left out, which means many chances for sinners to fight over weird stuff.

Not only are we not told many specifics, but look at how God refers to us:

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:7-8

There are other passages that sing our filth and show our utter failures. But, God calls out the idiots of the world so that he is praised and we are not. Think of 1 Cor 1. He says we are dumb, weak, fools and the opposite of noble can mean vulgar, common or lowly. Not only this, but God shows in Romans 5 that he didn't come for those who believe that they are righteous, but those of us who know we are sinners and vile. Not only this, but the church gathered has always been a mess. The letter to the Corinthians should be enough for us to realize that we are a mess. Look at how Paul describes the Corinthians:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Look at that list! Is there any surprise that this church is a little crazy and off point? This church was such a mess that they were allowing family reunions to be date night, using communion as a way for free booze and using the gift of tongues as a reason to get up in the middle of the sermon and yell craziness. The same is with us. The problem is that for some reason, we go to a church and believe it is some sort of perfect country club with no issues instead of crappy sinners who have been saved by grace. The problem is that we think that heaven is realized now, instead of a not yet future perfection. We go to church and live in community with our church as though Revelation 21:3-4 should be our church now:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

Revelation is a beautiful picture of what will happen as the bride is called to be with the groom in perfect worship of the Perfect One. I am sure you have seen Revelation 21 depicted on a t-shirt on that dude who won't stop smiling and shaking hands during the "turn and greet the people next to you bit after the first praise song where the same verse was repeated 19 times." I'm pretty sure that there is a verse somewhere against this. But, for now, we have to know that we are merely sojourners, living in the flesh as sinners with other sinners who are just as messed up as us. When we start losing focus of our sinfulness is when we see the church as more jacked up than it really is.

My second post will be what our reaction should be to this messed up, crappy gathering of sojourners. The answer is not to run, but to fight alongside and support. This is made clear in the Bible and I will show it's fullness tomorrow.


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