Editor's Note: This article is part of an ongoing conversation around why we go to church. Carlos, the author of this post is a staff member of Catch The Fire Raleigh, and has been involved in Catch The Fire in various roles for many years. After our podcast with Cathy Harris asking "Why Go to Church", Carlos blogged these thoughts in response. We will continue to present other perspectives on this conversation as time goes on. Please join in yourself via the comments.
Jesus loves his own body. He is very comfortable in his own skin. He feels no shame about his figure. He is not self-conscious about his physique. And unlike me (after three months of winter-bingeing) he looks in the mirror and honors every part of himself. Completely.
You and I are the body of Christ, and somehow he loves every wrinkle and bruise and flabby bit. Yes, Jesus really loves the church, even when you and I don’t.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 1 Cor. 12:27
We together are his body. But in it, there is still room to be individuals. The apostle Paul made the distinction clear. Some are eyes, some are legs, some are elbows and some are the appendix. Yet, we all belong, we all have a place, we are all part of him! And not just a part, but spiritually and experientially, him.
I think Paul really understood this concept because the very first thing Jesus said to him was, “Saul why are you persecuting me?” He must have been confused at the moment because Paul (who was Saul before this encounter) had never actually interacted with Jesus Christ. He knew of him, he rejected his teachings, he murdered his people, but the actual man Jesus he had never met. However, in this blinding light show on the road to Damascus, he hears the divine voice and understands, If I persecute the church, I persecute the Lord.
It seems then that Jesus is very comfortable with identifying himself with this mess we call church. He speaks to us, as an author who writes in the first person, “Me, the church.”
It has been almost 14 years of full-time involvement in church ministry for me. During that time, I have been a youth pastor, a worship pastor, a lead pastor and a useless pastor. I have worked in the media department, drama club, sound, slides, welcome team, security, counselling and casting demons crew. I have done things I did not like, things I did not agree with and things I felt manipulated into doing. And I loved most of it. I have cleaned toilets by myself, preached to thousands at a time, travel to 30 nations with the Gospel, and properly hated about 246 church members.
Yet, every one of those brothers and sister (who feel like ugly distant cousins) have become the glorious invitation to walk as my Savior walks. Seriously, I can say that there have been moments where I have felt disgust with the politics, the stupidity and the falsehood of church. And every single time (and I mean every single time) Jesus has shared with me his thoughts about the church, through this one question, “Carlos why are you persecuting me?”
When you love God but hate church you have to understand that God loves you… and He loves the church. Just as much! It’s impossible to comprehend this logically. It’s equally impossible to accept it emotionally. The church has earned the right to be hated, but Jesus is crazy about her. And Jesus is always right.
Ben Jackson, Pudd and Cathy Harris recorded a podcast last week about “Why we go to Church?
” These are three people who I love and admire, and I LOVED their main point of agreement, “We meet because Jesus is alive! And despite our differences, that is worth celebrating together.”
Church might provide sustainable community for a while, but I guarantee you, if you stick around long enough, that community will fail you. Church might also provide enough spiritual activity to satisfy your religious hunger, but I can guarantee you, eventually you will get bored and complacent. Church might even provide a sense of growth and change and improvement, but eventually you will fail again, sin again, hurt again, and I can guarantee you now, the church will reject you for your failures.
So don’t come for the community, the spiritual activity, or the self-improvement… come to die. Embrace your role in the body and destroy the selfish-proud-self-centered-you. Focus on the servant, king, resurrected Jesus Christ… who loves you and me and all 246.
You know why you should go to church? Let me rephrase that, you know why we should love the church? Because they do, and by “they” I mean the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The perfect Godhead left us a very imperfect model, so that in our collective imperfection, we would encounter his perfect love.
Saying to Jesus, “I hate the church” is like telling my wife that she is fat and ugly. I might be “right” according to my very “wrong” standards of beauty and vanity. But I am obviously terribly wrong (and stupid). Value in the kingdom has never been about what we see, it’s always been about what God says. And he says that we are “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” 1 Peter 2:9
“God’s language is faith. Nothing is impossible with God (see Matt. 19:26). God never speaks negatively. He speaks truth. Even when He speaks truth, He speaks it by faith, because He sees what can happen. Faith doesn’t mean that you don’t see the problem. Faith means you can see past the problem to the answer. You’re not saying, “There is no problem.” You’re saying, “There is an answer!”
I know you have legitimate reason to disagree with me. The church has hurt many hearts, broken good families and produced way too much cheese. But (and it is a BIG but) it has been, and still is his body. Together, individually, united, as family.
YES! change must come. Reformation is due. Revival is necessary. But I want to be part of the generation that sees itself as a healthy autoimmune system for the body, and not become the generation that wants to be the poison of chemotherapy attacking from the outside.
Both want healing. One is the way of love.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
It can be big, it can be small, it can be old-school or it can be hipster-relevant… but choose. Find the ideal part of the body for you to serve at. The gathering where we join regularly to say, “Jesus is alive! And despite our differences, that is worth celebrating together.”
I used to preach this kind of message as a pastor because I wanted people to get involved and help build my own little pathetic kingdom. But I am now convicted to preach it, and live it, and remain in it, for the sake of his.
This article is part of an ongoing conversation
around why we go to church. We will continue to present other perspectives on this conversation as time goes on. Please join in yourself via the comments.