I deliberated good and long about how to go about this before I sat down to write. I reached out to historians, professors, seminary students, and scholars with worlds of wisdom in their minds and hearts far surpassing the usual flotsam and jetsam banging around in mine. I consulted the Bible, God, friends, and my wife. And when I received the answers to my inquires about the church, its origins, our American Biblical translations, and whether or not ten million dollars is better spent on a new building or caring for the orphans and widows of our world, I accepted what I already knew: This conversation is 2000 years old. Jesus had it with the Pharisees, Paul had it with the church of Corinth, David Platt wrote about it in his book Radical, and Bill Hybels even apologized to his congregation and the world for “missing the mark.”
I promised a Part II about what I learned about the church while seeking God outside of it, but writing as a conclusion about the churches I thought were doing it right actually seemed wrong. Why? Because a church I feel is “missing the mark” today is also the same church where I died and was born again.
Allow me keep this final observation on the church simple.
We’ve been gathering on Sunday to celebrate as far back as 40 A.D. because Sunday is the day the Christ conquered the grave. The price of our misguided hearts was paid by someone else. We were saved, and that someone else is still slated to return, as He promised He would, and worthy of celebration. But when He didn’t return as soon as we anticipated, perhaps we had to make some changes regarding where and how we gathered because more and more of us kept showing up to celebrate, and we didn’t know what to do with them all. Have you ever played the game Telephone? Put twelve people in a room and they are guaranteed to screw it up. Now put twelve thousand in that same room… Twelve million…
I think in 40 A.D. we showed up on Sundays for one reason: to celebrate the fact that everything was going to be okay.
We were built for it. Unfortunately, when we show up today, it’s not always what we find. The guilt I found in all the churches I’ve attended, I believe it creeps its way in to our hearts when the celebration fades out. When we stop believing everything is going to be okay.
What did I learn about the church while seeking God outside of it?
That people are still showing up to celebrate after all these years even though the church is flawed and broken and beautiful and has a shameful, ugly side to it that I’ll bet it wishes it didn’t have and repeatedly tries to hide. Just like me. Just like you. Just like always.