Have you ever heard something like this, usually when someone is looking for a reason (really an excuse) not to go to church?
“There are too many hypocrites in the church.”
This kind of “reasoning” makes me think of the simple statement of Jesus,
“What is that to you? You follow me!” [i]
To be called “a Corinthian” in the ancient world was a low-down, dirty insult, synonymous with sensual, unrestrained living. The people of Corinth were pagans, idolaters; a very immoral people. While not at all pleased with their lifestyles, God loved the Corinthian people nonetheless. The Apostle Paul loved the Corinthian church, even when it was stricken with cases of gross immorality and spiritual immaturity. Paul didn’t gauge his faith and loyalty to the house of God based on who was or wasn’t at church, but rather it was based upon the Person to whom the church belongs. Pastors could probably list more “problems” in the church than any church visitor, church member, or church backslider, but they keep coming back to the next service, and the next and the next. Why? For a pay check? No!
True sheep know where they belong.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” [ii] Good pastors and church members know, at the end of the day it’s still the Lord’s church. Going to church faithfully is about serving the Lord faithfully, despite instances of unfaithfulness on the part of some. Paul would not quit, but he held on, believing that he could make a difference in Corinth.
Quitting is not an option.
Knowing the problems rampant in the church he still writes them saying, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” Paul didn’t give up on the church; neither should we. Rather than lambasting them for their leniency in the face of lewdness and blatant lasciviousness, he greets them kindly and reminds them they are sanctified and called to be saints. Paul didn’t quit on the saints at Corinth.
So, you can point out the hypocrite, the backslider, the silly and foolish one, or the pious “holier than thou” snob. Okay. Do you also know there are good, genuine Christians in the church?
In fact, the most excellent, godly people you will ever find are in the church. So there are some carnal hypocrites in the church. “What is that to thee? follow thou me.” Perhaps now is a good time to point out the very human nature of the church. Though it is a spiritual community, we are each one still very much human. Humans have faults. Yet some of us cannot resist the urge to compare our faults to the faults of others, as if to place our failures in piety on a self-righteous scale with others’ “far worse” failures, thereby tipping the scales in favor of our saintly superiority.
It’s not a good idea to attempt to cover up our slackness by pointing out the slackness of others. “They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” The only legitimate measurement for any of us, sinner or saint, is to compare ourselves to the man Christ Jesus, of whom we all fall miserably short. Besides, those who complain about a few bad examples in the church use it as an excuse not to be involved. It is a cloak of falsehood to cover the bare fact of an uncommitted spirit. Truth be told, the whistle-blowers and excuse-makers have probably never made a serious effort to find the authentic people of God who are in our midst every week.
Thomas á Kempis rightfully admonished,
“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be … How seldom we weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves.”
I’ve noticed over the years that faultfinders, who knit-pick about the errors of others, don’t usually last. They fade off the scene, while the one they griped about, though they struggled along, are still in church, still growing, and doing better than ever. One writer wisely concludes “the best way to reproduce a healthy church tomorrow is to be a part of one today.” [iii] If our concerns are sincere, and we genuinely want to see a healthy church, then we ought to BE that contributing agent of health and wellness the church needs.
Assumptions about what [we] think the church should be will distort our views and lead us astray. If we think the church should be the perfect place where everyone gets along all the time, always works together, and no one ever disappoints … well, we must be living in a false reality. There are hardheaded people in every church. Get over it. Jesus dealt with stubborn, inconsistent, unreliable, uncommitted people.
But Jesus still shed his blood and died for the church.
The church is a place of healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration, none of which can happen in isolation. “By his stripes ye are healed.” His stripes, that is to say “his wounds,” are in his Body. We who are “in His Body”—i.e. in the Church—are covered by His stripes. Outside the Body we have no covering, no Blood, and no stripes. We need the Body.
We still need the Church.
No matter what anyone may say, lives are still being changed by a salvation experience that happens (most times) at the church. Salvation, specifically the New Birth, places us into the family of God. What business do we have disowning our family and the Head of the family, Jesus Christ? Yet this is exactly what we do when we “forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” We dis-fellowship ourselves—for a day or week or month or year—saying essentially, “I don’t need the brothers and sisters God gave me, and they don’t need me.” Both are lies.
“The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.
And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care.
So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.” [iv]
The entire church body is influential in just one soul being transformed by an experience with God. To not come and be involved in that wonderful work is paramount to saying, “It’s not worth my time” … “What have I to do with that?”
Let me say, don’t give up on the church! The Lord never has, and never will, give up on you. We owe it to the Lord, first and foremost, to be an active, contributing, present member in His Church.
Don’t give up on the Church. You need the Church and the Church needs you!
[i] John 21:22 (English Standard Version)
[ii] John 10:27
[iii] Mack Stiles, “The Call of God: Inspired, Informed, Confirmed,” in CROSS, Ed. John Piper and David Mathis (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 113.
[iv] 1Cor 12:21-24 (New Living Translation)