why you shouldn’t give up on community altogether–especially the church
I’ve had conversations with people who have been genuinely hurt by a community (and sometimes even a “Christian” community). I can relate. I’ve been hurt by community (even Christian community at times).
The temptation when we are hurt is to run, to write off community all together because community is where the hurt happened. I don’t disagree there are communities who are toxic and wrong and in those cases you should run. There are communities teaching or living a false truth about God and with whom we shouldn’t immerse ourselves. However, as followers of Jesus, we simply cannot give up on a Christ-centered community, His bride–the church.
The church was God’s reason for creating humanity. God didn’t NEED us but He wanted a family.
“Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us . . . His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us.”
God’s plan has always been to accomplish his purposes through the church—a Christ-centered community.
But, it can get confusing when the church doesn’t always reflect Christ. In fact, individual believers (as part of a Christian community–that includes you) are accountable for seeking after the heart of Jesus. But, we don’t always get it right because ONE, we are sinners and the enemy would love nothing more than to take the family of God down by tempting us with sin. TWO, every single person, me, you, and your favorite Christian leader is limited in their spiritual maturity because we are still here on a broken earth in a broken body. Every Christ-follower is a work in progress until Christ comes back or our time on earth comes to an end. We are going to mess up and sometimes we’re going to mess up BIG.
So, the reality is that church–a Christ-centered community–the family of God is hard. Plain and simple is that Christian community isn’t plain and simple. But, as crazy as it sounds, IT IS God’s plan from before the creation of the earth for us to be in community.
God does not intend to carry out His purposes not through nations, governments, or corporations. Earthly institutions are temporary, and they’re not big enough to tackle all the global problems. Only the church is big enough. And only the church will last forever.
I heard a quote and I wish I could remember who said it but it stuck with me. “The church is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church.” Even in their sometimes broken state, God still chooses to use His people. Read the Bible, He uses some messed up folks. But throughout history He keeps using His community of believers over and over and He is still doing it today.
There is a generation walking away from Church (and in some cases God) right now because there are things that individuals (please read: not everyone) within a “Christ-proclaiming”community hasn’t gotten right and those individuals should repent and run back to the redeeming arms of Jesus. Please hear me, it’s tempting to get in line with a generation that is walking away because of your own hurts, wounds, and too much frustration. But, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re called to lean into God’s family. Ask the questions, comfort and receive comfort, and seek Jesus for healing, wisdom and discernment.
(And Church, please welcome the questions, the doubts, and the confusion. Because behind every one of those questions, doubts, and confusion is a person who Jesus desperately loves and an enemy who is fighting hard to blind them to the powerful work of God’s Spirit to heal lives.)
Acknowledge community is hard. But also come to terms with Christian community–the church–is God’s plan. Giving up on it doesn’t make it better and it won’t make you better. It may feel like a relief for a time but Christian community isn’t going away and God isn’t going to quit using His bride to fulfill His purposes even if you can’t seem to figure out how. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you are responsible to His church and His mission. The church is not perfect–far from it, but walking away isn’t the answer.
I recently heard a quote by a Polish philosopher while listening to Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast. The quote said this.
There are 2 circumstances we should always keep simultaneously in mind. First, if the new generations had not continually revealed against inherited tradition, we would still be living in caves. Second, if revolt against inherited tradition should become universal, we would soon be back in caves.”Leszek Kolakowski
What is Kolakowski saying? I think he’s saying that if we throw everything out, we’re back in caves.
There is a deep need for revival within our Western church. I (along with you) could easily point fingers. But, I’ve found as I allow Jesus to revive my own heart, He gives me a deep affection, compassion and love for His church and gives me the strength, the wisdom and the discernment to offer the gifts He has imparted upon me to continually join in with a Christ-centered community to fulfill the purposes of God’s Kingdom and His glory on earth.