I was at a work lunch recently when this question was presented for the sake of conversation: What is the biggest problem facing the American church?
The question went around the table like a minute hand and each of my trendy and impressively groomed colleagues took their turn articulating the church’s main flaw. (Side note: I work with a lot of artists. When you get these people together, it looks like an Anthropologie photo shoot.)
My lunch buddies gave thoughtful yet predictable answers. “The problem with the church today is that we’re too close to current culture.” “The church is too flashy.” “We’ve lost our first love.” “It’s all about numbers.”
I dreaded my turn because I have a natural gag reflex to this topic of conversation, and I certainly didn’t want to be known as “the gross guy who puked on Cindy’s cute pumps.”
So, when all eyes turned to me, I deflected by telling a story about an African bishop I once knew who prayed like Moses. (Stories about African bishops who pray like Moses are gold.)
Couples rarely sit down for coffee and say, “Let’s talk about the worst parts of our relationship.” I wouldn’t take my daughter for ice cream and say, “So, today I want to share my least favorite ways you style your hair.”
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think the church is beautiful. Really beautiful. Studying her problems absolutely misses the point. It’s like questioning the way Dostoyevsky punctuated or the way Van Gogh cleaned his brushes. Absurd.
Newsflash: The church isn’t perfect.
(Oh, and another newsflash: Your church isn’t perfect.)
She is sometimes misrepresented, sometimes overly-hyped, sometimes divided. This is not a recent discovery. We don’t need YouTube responders, Calvinist hipsters or self-appointed watchmen on the wall to tell us that.
I think we like to outline the problems because we feel like it’s the first step to fixing them. And I guess that kind of makes sense. It’s just that . . .
I didn’t know it was our job to fix the church. I always assumed the Holy Spirit was in charge of that.
No, I’ve decided that I’ll take the church just the way she is. Some may see her as divided; I see her as diverse. Some may view her as immature; I view her as maturing. Some may think she is bending to current culture; I think she is loving current culture.
The church may have flaws, but be careful what you say about her over appetizers. She is stunningly beautiful to Jesus. He loves her. He is coming back for her.
She is His bride.