“The church is a whore, but she’s my mother” – Saint Augustine

The church has an image problem today. I talk regularly with folks who respect Jesus, show genuine interest in following him, yet want nothing to do with his church. And you know what? I don’t blame them. I find myself cynical of the church more than I’d care to admit. Scandal, greed, hypocrisy, self-righteousness and retreat from a hurting world are flaws that cannot be easily overlooked. At a time when authenticity is supremely valued, the church strikes many as being very inauthentic.

So down with the church right? Not so quick! I really don’t think it’s wise to give up on the church. No doubt, it’s inexcusable for God’s people to come up short in so many ways, but we’re kidding ourselves if we expect people in the church to have it all together. As I’ve heard it said many times, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints.” The church is not made up of people who have it all together, but precisely the opposite. Those in the church rally around the One who does have it all together in our place. That’s what Christianity is all about, coming to terms with our lack of togetherness and relying on the togetherness of Jesus.

Further, if we condemn the church and think we’re better than those people, we’re just perpetuating the hypocrisy and self-righteous mentality we despise. We need to see ourselves included among those who don’t have it all together. We have much to learn. It’s easy to point the finger and condemn from the outside. What we really need is for those who feel jaded to step up and say, “You know what? The church is a mess. But I’m a mess too. I’m going to follow Jesus in his church and try to make a difference by living authentically for him in and through his church.”

Finally, in the biblical story there is no such thing as following Jesus apart from his church. When we commit to following him we commit to following him in community with others. The church is really important to Jesus so it should be important to us. The idea of following him apart from others is really an American notion driven by indvidualism. We need Jesus and we need each other. What do you think? I’d like to know.

The conversation continues…

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