So, I've had a few conversations with people lately that have been disillusioned with the church. Many times these people have been ready to walk away from the church altogether because of that. It has made me think a lot about how I feel about the church . . . and I've come to the conclusion that I love the church (now before you jump down my throat for that statement, please read all this blog).
I know that the church has done some things that have hurt people. I know that the history of the church is filled with as many mistakes and dark times as successes and exciting times. I know that the reputation of the church in the world is not always a good one. I know that the church has it's share of problems. But, despite all of that, I love the church.
To clarify, before I go any further, when I talk about the church, I am talking about the body of believers - those who identify themselves as disciples of Christ. But, I'm also talking about the church as an institution primarily (at least in this case). I honestly believe that both of these are important. The body of believers is important definitely, and I have found very few people who are disillusioned with the body of believers. Most of the people I have talked to are disillusioned with the church as an institution.
One of the reasons for why people are disillusioned with the church as an institution that I have heard is that the church was not designed to be an institution. I would like to point out that right from the beginning there has been a structure of leadership and organization that has existed. In Acts 6, it talks about the Apostles choosing other people from among the early church to be responsible for caring for and assisting the widows and orphans, so that they could devote themselves to teaching. Paul's letters in the New Testament also speak of him finding leaders and setting organization in place in all of the places that he travelled to preach the Gospel.
So, after reading that, I can do nothing other than conclude that there was structure and organization to the early church. While the church may primarily be the body of the believers, it is also an institution. And, in my opinion, a needed one. Without the church being organized there would be many things that the church is called to do that would not be done.
The church has a rich history going back almost 2000 years. It is a history that has times of great revival, times of great persecution, and times of graves mistakes we made. And yet, through it all the church has persevered and, in many instances, has thrived. We must not forget or ignore that history. We should be making an effort to learn that history so that we can learn from it - both from the mistakes and the successes.
I think that if we had any real idea of the history that we are a part of as the church, we would not be so tempted to walk away from it. We may still not always agree with everything about the church and we will probably still be hurt by the church from time to time, after all it is still made up of broken people just like us, but I do not think we would be so easily disillusioned with the church.
As I have learned more about the history of the church - both the church as a whole and the individual church I am a part of. That is one the main reasons why I love the church. And it is one of the things that has caused me to refuse to turn my back on the church even when I have found myself hurt or not liking something that the church did.
The church is not perfect. It is made up of broken, messed up people, so why do we expect it to be? Maybe instead of expecting the church to be perfect to our standards we should seek to be the church we dream of ourselves (Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne). Rather than seeking fault in the church, let's choose to look for the good and to be the good we want to be. The church is the way that God has chosen to spread His message to the world, so rather than walking away from it, we should seek to make it what it should be.
I love the church! And I think we need more people who do. Because when we have people who do love the church that is when we can become the church that we are called to be.