If there is not some form of tension, conflict, or person that annoys you I strongly doubt you are plugged into a local church.
One of the best analogies of the local church is the family of God. God is perfect, but the family can be a bit dysfunctional.
I believe we need healthy practices in the local church. I believe we need to practice Matthew 18 and talk to people instead of about people. I believe we should do everything we can to unify and not offend people with our actions because the Gospel of Jesus is offensive enough. Let me unpack that.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18.
In a world where inclusion and politically correct thinking is highly valued the gospel stands out like a groom wearing his birthday suit to his wedding. Typically a suit is required at a wedding, and a man who is wearing his birthday suit would be uncomfortably awkward at a wedding. No matter how much he tries to explain he got the wardrobe mixed up it’s going to be awkward. If you catch my drift.
Christians have found the power of God that comes from Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus’ truth will push against cultural truths that seem to always be changing. His truth will also push against religious institutions that are more focused on being a holy huddle than a hospital for sinners.
If sinners don’t feel comfortable around Christians while at the same time being challenged in their life choices something is wrong. At the same time if the religious elite don’t feel uncomfortable around a follower of Jesus because of who they are investing in then something is wrong.
The local church should be the healthiest place on earth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t messy.
People are messy.
Lives are messy.
Faith is messy.
Jesus practiced a life that made religious people uncomfortable. At times Christians seem to focus on making religious people feel comfortable while working hard tick off those that don’t believe.
There are so many different views and opinions on Scripture that there is no doubt many will disagree with my understanding. And that’s okay. We can disagree and still be friends.
Religion is about hard lines that distinguish who is in and who is out. The Church is unique in that it welcomes all different races, people groups, and opinions. And then it asks all to check their identity at the door and become united by one common thought…Jesus.
The early Christians had difficulty in breaking down the cultural barriers. You had classes of people who didn’t associate with each other now sitting next to each other in Church.
The Apostle Paul addresses this,
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:2.
Outside of the church walls we find our identity by what we do, like, or associate with. As a Christian we check our identity at the door and become united as one in Jesus.
So there should be UNC and Duke fans sitting next to each other at church. There should be democrats and republicans hanging out with each other at church. There should be those who have a past and those who are sheltered living life together. There should be those who are more liberal conversing with those that are more conservative. There should be messy conversations, relationships, and decisions.
If there is not some mess, the church becomes a country club for exclusive members instead of a hospital for broken people.
I believe we need all types of churches to reach all types of people. I’m thankful that we have so many options. At the same time so many options has made it easy to leave a church as soon as it gets a little messy.
What we find is that every church we go to has some mess.
There are no perfect churches.
Let me give an example of this. Statistics show that if a person gives back by volunteering there is a high probability that they will stay at a church. At the same time if someone doesn’t get involved there is a high probability that after 12 months they will check out.
So…I believe anyone can volunteer at the church. That’s not always a popular opinion. It doesn’t have to be every churches’ opinion, but it is mine. We don’t take sin resumes at the door. So, anyone, no matter their beliefs can volunteer.
At the same time we have higher standards for those in spiritual authority.
This is where things get messy.
We all have sin and yet there are certain behaviors that prohibit a person from being in a position of spiritual authority. We try to hold those in spiritual authority to a higher standard and it’s messy.
It’s not always black and white. It’s not easy. It involves tough conversations. It involves lots of prayer. It involves an abundance of grace.
As a sinner I’m still allowed to preach every week by the grace of God. At the same time there are some things that would disqualify me from preaching. That’s a tough tension to manage.
What happens so often is when someone messes up we reject them from the community and cut them off. Somehow we have to love a broken person through their sin while maintaining convictions. It’s so messy.
Is it possible to love someone so much that they stick around even when they know you disagree with them? The local Church should be able to answer this with a resounding…YES!