There’s a standing joke about what people are looking for in their “perfect” church. The punch line goes “as soon as you join, it won’t be perfect anymore.” Ha Ha! LOL. The joke is as corny as they come but the truth of the matter is clear. We will never find a church where everything suits us and that consistently functions in a manner that meets our lofty expectations. Gosh, just put the shoe on the other foot and let the church scrutinize you and me against its expectations! =Unfortunately,most people aren’t good at keeping their dislikes to themselves as if their “yardstick” is the gold standard for how churches should be.
What a fickle bunch we Christians (collectively) have become. Even in our small town there are over 600 churches on the buffet. As our Pastor has been preaching through the Book of Acts, we have been exposed to the monumental cultural, tradition and “taste” challenges the early church faced. Jews, steeped in their “laws,” rituals, taboos and traditions, were learning to unite in spirit and in previously forbidden social life with people who were once far from God and the practice of religious norms. There was often a sense of resentment that through Christ the non-Jewish Gentiles could come into a saving faith relationship with God without the cumbersome “hoops” the Jews had been burdened with for generations.
And for these new Gentile Christians, happy as a clam to be “Friended” by the creator and accepted by God just as they were, they were a bit spiritually rough and tumble, uneducated but grateful to be joined with others who sought and served the living God . . . a “no rules yet” crowd, uneducated in the mechanics of “proper” religious life. The only ones they weren’t “second class believers” to were God and the more mature Jewish Christians. How did these two cultures make it, you ask? They had their priorities right. It wasn’t clear sailing every day, but they were committed to a unity in the main thing . . . . their identity in Christ and their worship of Him.
Things you hear in the “imperfect” church: The Sunday message isn’t a “home run”; the song mix doesn’t suit your taste (or more importantly is not the style you embraced growing up); the Pastor or staff didn’t stop to say hi to me as they rushed across the lobby (with 63 things on their minds); the communion wafers weren’t large or crunchy (not a snack); the room temperature was a few degrees from ideal; the person I sat by wore old clothes and they smelled a little; the message time ran over ( I clocked it and I’m hungry); the grass was a little long (it rained on the yard man); I didn’t get to sit where I normally do; no-one greeted me (and no, I didn’t greet anyone either!); there’s no Community Group within a 5 minute drive; the person I sat next to wore strong perfume; I had to park far away due to the crowd; “ . . . ministry” doesn’t get enough priority; . . . . get the point? We may not find that “perfect” place, but we can find our peace.
The message from the message is that just as it was essential for the well-being and advancement of the early church, we today need to acknowledge and lay down any of our petty preferences and pursue the greater things our Christian journey together affords us. We work at creating welcoming environments. We try to recognize our imperfections and improve. But imperfections are not the same as preferences. Camping out on personal preferences will become a seed of disunity as one’s thoughts become words and these words become gossip. So, is there anything you may need to “lay down” in order to “build up” the church you are attending? As long as any church involves people, it will miss the mark of perfection. Think About It.