[originally posted on September 29, 2008]
It seems everyone wants to be a naysayer these days. Everyone wants to say their piece about how bad things are in Christianity. Non-believers love to point out seeming inconsistencies and laugh about the supposed “crutch of religion.” Professing believers point out the apostasy of other professing believers. Slight nuances of Scriptural interpretation are blown way out of proportion. Or truly heretical, on-the-fringe sects of professing “Christians” are put in the spotlight (by both believers and nonbelievers alike) and made out to be the stereotypical church of the 21st century. Like the picture above so poignantly points out, I almost get the feeling that Christian naysayers are getting too much sadistic pleasure out of “cursing the darkness.”
Please don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not advocating a live and let live ecumenical practice. Yes, the Bible is clear that we need to take a stand against false doctrine & apostasy and stand for what the Bible teaches. Indeed, it is quite easy to point out what’s wrong with the church. Criticism always has been easy.
But I hear little of what the church is doing right, little of the mutual encouraging of each other’s faith (Ro.1:12). Romans 15:5-6 says “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet this isn’t seen as much as is the blasting each other for the littlest foibles. We spend so much time worrying about our own misconception of what other Christians and churches are doing (which often these misconceptions have no basis in personally known reality) that we completely miss the opportunities to encourage one another. Perhaps it’s because this is the harder road to follow. I know that I have certainly been guilty of this.
So what is right with the church today? Here are a few observations from my perspective, first about the church in general and then as I have seen personally in my church.
On the Macro (big picture) level
1. First and foremost is the fact that no matter what we see in the world around us, God is still sovereign, God is still in control – God is still GOD. Jesus gave the promise in Matt. 16:18 that he would build his church, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
2. There seems to be an explosion of ministries and servants of God whose purpose is to point out, expound on, and magnify the glory of God. And as technology advances, more and more resources are available from such ministries as Desiring God and Sovereign Grace Ministries and countless others. Count among these the parachurch organizations such as The Voice of the Martyrs, Samaritan’s Purse and others that seek to keep the church’s focus both on encouraging those in persecution and helping those through the grace of the Gospel.
3. Many churches are standing firm against false doctrine and error, testing new teaching to see if it conforms to the Word of God. For every infamous preacher that makes headlines in the Christian world by compromising the truth, there are 100 others, unknown outside their communities, that remain firm to the Bible.
4. There seems to have been a resurgence recently in theologically sound music – music that actually says something. A few years back, the church was in the middle of the “worship wars” and it seemed virtually every musician in the Christian music genre (and even some not normally considered such) was putting out a “Worship” album. The difficulty was that the majority of it was all the same emotion-driven, content-free stuff. But out of this, there were many musicians that created or re-interpreted some really great music, including some older hymns as well as writing new hymns. Some of my favorites (among many) are Keith & Kristyn Getty, Fernando Ortega, Sovereign Grace music, Chris Rice and Third Day. Their music seems to be filled with songs of encouragement, songs that put the emphasis back on God.
On the Micro (local) level
I am very thankful for Grace Church and the family of believers that make up this church. I have been attending Grace Church for almost 10 years now and here are a few things that I am thankful for and how, in my opinion, Grace Church exhibits what is indeed right with the church today.
1. The teaching of the Word of God has consistently been at the forefront of everything that is done. I don’t have to wonder on the way to church whether or not what will be taught from the pulpit will be from Scripture. Our pastor approaches the Bible from a redemptive history aspect, which I have come to truly appreciate since it shows how all the Bible is in some way pointing to Christ.
2. The community of believers is strong and seems exactly that – a community. My family has personally experienced this in so many ways, from the total support and encouragement we received in the adoption/birth of our children, to the love and care shown in the wake of my father-in-law’s death, to the sense of family in our small group. It is through the fellowship and encouragement of believers that the power of the Gospel is shown and communicated in far stronger ways than simple words can express.
3. I’ve never gotten the feeling that at Grace Church, the minor things are blown out of proportion. This was drastically exampled when I first began attending Grace Church almost 10 years ago. At the time, there was an adult Sunday School class on eschatology, particularly the millennial reign of Christ. To my surprise, three different men who held to the three main millennial teachings (a-, pre-, and post-millennial) were given one or two weeks each to teach their view from Scripture. It was recognized that each position had Biblical support, but more importantly that the Bible was not clear on the subject and Christians could differ with one another.
4. Pastor Tim has truly been a blessing in my life. I have never known a man who has such an incredible heart for people and passion for the Gospel as he does. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with Tim on a (more or less) weekly basis and through this friendship have found my faith challenged and strengthened. We have encouraged one another in Scripture memory, read books together and shared the ups and downs of family life together. Although I have to admit, I think he does far more listening to me than I do to him.
These are just a few observations that I thought I would share in what I thought is right with the church today. Whatever church you attend, wherever you are, I’d encourage you to do this exercise. You may find there’s a lot more right about the church than you realize. Then share it with someone – it may be the encouragement they need.