Wounded By The Church

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."
Matthew 5:43-48


Miz Jean said...

They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they will know we are Christians by our love!

Kelly said...

There is so much of that that goes on inside and outside the church - and I just can't understand.
I love my church SO much. I remember last year watching a Beth Moore video and she was talking about her home church and she said "OH I hope you LOVE your church" and tears just stinged my eyes because I wish everyone could have a church family and love their church as much as I love mine. BUT I love my church because I love Jesus so much and I can see Him so clearly in the members and staff of our church.

sheltonfamily said... true and so not deserving of your church. I'm so excited for your new pastor. He must be a strong man for God to select him as he has already faced pressure etc....I am so glad that you have a different perspective and see the truth of Jesus.

taralynn819 said...

Hey, I popped over here from Kelly's Korner because I saw you guys live in Minnesota. I grew up in St. Louis Park (class of '99...our reunion is next year, although I've seen more than enough on Facebook I think :)).

This post struck me enough to comment. I've been to Grace for a gazillion concerts (such great memories!) and also visited for a service one time.

I grew up in very small churches in the area, and now attend a much larger one (although, still much smaller than Grace, but size is subjective). I too would have been hurt by the comments to that article. Nobody can judge unless they know personally.

However, I’m on the “inside”, not of your church, but of mine. I have to admit that I would label my church all of those things you listed were in the comments – we really do have an overly extravagant building (at least I think so), we are most certainly wealthy (by comparison standards), all white except for a couple people, and possibly hypocritical too. (Please, PLEASE know I’m talking strictly about the church I attend, not yours. This just made me think.) I mean, we can’t help it that we are located in the more affluent part of the county, but we have people driving from all over the county (and past lots of great churches along the way) to get to our church. It’s growing, not because people are getting saved, but because people are leaving other upstanding churches to join ours. It’s like we’re the “church country club” or something. Lets all get together and sing “Here I am to Worship” 5 billion times, shake a few hands, and call that worship! What a great idea! We say “Amen!” but do we actually live it out? I hardly know anybody in our church because of its size, small group or not. I realize different people might thrive in different environments, but sometimes I struggle to believe that size doesn’t play some sort of negative role.

Granted, there are a lot of great people in our church, but as a whole, it seems like people are more concerned with the latest fashions and vacations than they are about true fellowship and outreach. The service is more about production and perfection than allowing the Spirit to lead. We are involved in an outreach on the more “ghetto” side of town, but there is zero outreach on our own side of town. And the wealthy people need reaching just as much because they are often the most difficult shells to crack. It’s easy for someone with nothing and who is “messed up” to understand they need Christ and His grace, but it’s very hard for someone who has “everything” (by the world’s standards) to see their need and their sin. Is my church deceived that just because the neighborhood our church sits in looks pretty and nice? I don’t know. My husband and I are on the Missions and Evangelism Team, and as much as we try to spread our purpose as encouraging our church to share their faith, they view us as the church’s “evangelists”. Let’s ask MET to do this or that, type thing. We are doing all we can to dismiss that mindset, but I feel we're at the end of the rope. We are just frustrated.

I fear the world views my church largely like they do yours, and I fear even more that they are accurate, that my church really doesn’t care.

It would be comforting to know that there is a church out there that is large and REAL. I’m missing the “real”, and for that I wish I could say I look forward to Sunday morning, but I don’t.