Can I just say that I love OUR Church? I also love THE Church. But, I fear that THE Church is greatly misunderstood and therefore OUR Church takes a hit for that general misunderstanding. Let me explain that thought.
Just two weeks ago, our church voted to call our next Senior Pastor and we approved the candidate with an overwhelming majority, 99% of our present members voting "yes!" We were/are THRILLED about that news for our church. We have been seeking the Lord for our next Senior Pastor for over a year, and the Lord has answered us in a wonderful way. Pastor Dobbs is going to be a great fit at Grace and we as a congregation and staff are excited and extremely grateful for what lies ahead. There is truly a spirit of anticipation in the air at our church right now and we are sensing the Lord moving and working among our body. These are good days at Grace.
However, they haven't always been that way recently. We have walked a long road, a road marked with several bumps along the way. We have been put "through the fire" with several challenging situations, but we know He is refining us for His glory as a church body. It's been a painful process, but a beautiful one too. We are emerging with wounds and scars, but they only represent a greater work that He is doing and therefore they are worth every hurt they represent. That is where we've been, but this is where we're going. We know that God has now provided a leader to walk us through the next season. We believe without a doubt, that God is calling us to re-capture our first love and our passion for Him. And we're excited about it!
But not everyone shares that excitement. I stumbled on an article tonight, written about our church and our new Pastor, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It was a fair article, talking about how we found our new Pastor and where he's coming from. The writer described our history in the twin cities and some of the facts about our church. I read this online and saw that 78 comments had been left about the article. Naturally, I was interested in what people had to say, so I decided to read them. As I began to pour through them, let's just say that my mouth hit the table and I sat at my computer in utter disbelief. So many hate-filled people. So many off-base comments. So many out right lies. I couldn't believe what I was reading.
Somewhere, somehow people have gotten the wrong idea about OUR Church and that's when I realized how many people have the wrong idea about THE Church. In other words, at some point in their life, they've obviously been wounded by THE Church and therefore have an uninformed view our OUR Church. Life has disappointed them and therefore God has disappointed them. They've encountered THE Church and been hurt by what they've found. And so they spew hate toward all that is "church" and God. Sadly, the one who's hurt the most isn't them, but Jesus. His name has been smeared by our shortcomings and He is dismissed as flawed, untrue, and non-existent.
But the hate remains. So many comments were left about how big our church is, how extravagant our building is, how "white" we are, how hypocritical we are, and how wealthy we are, etc., etc., etc. Most of what was written was incredibly untrue and not at all correct. It made me mad to read it, because it's very unfair and obviously uninformed. However, even more than feeling mad about it, I felt really sad about it. I was just simply struck by how differently the world sees THE Church and how despite our best efforts, we still fail them. I was also reminded that we're never going to meet the needs of people. No matter how great our ministries run, who our leader is, or what we do, nothing can satisfy the longing of all men. Only Jesus can. And He told us not to be surprised when the world hates us because they're really hating Him. His gospel is offensive and His truth cuts deeply to our hearts. Either we believe it or we don't. But He did tell us how to treat those who hate Him and in my case, those who blog with hate towards Him and HIS Church. I'm challenged to pray for those who live in our city and who don't know the hope and peace that Jesus gives. We can't change the way people think, but we can plead for them before the ONE who changes hearts.
Father, help me love as you love, see as you see, and act as you act. Pursue those who don't yet believe in You, with your unconditional love, and heal their wounds. Help us be THE Church YOU want us to be."
"You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."