We don’t need an expert to tell us that our world is screwed up; that should be apparent to all of us. It seems everyday there is a new report of corruption in the news. It’s way too easy to find a story of someone taking advantage of their neighbor or lying about their actions. The world is full of these accounts that all too often affect our own personal lives. It is clear how messed up our world truly is. But that doesn’t surprise me.
It doesn’t come as a shock to me when I see the world in such shape; I expect that. What shocks me, and pains me, is when I see the church like that.
Far too often the church looks and acts just like the world does. Far too often the church causes the same pain to people as the world does. Far too often the church lies and cheats, steals and takes advantage of. Far too often corruption is rampant in the church. Far too often the church holds signs with hateful sayings. And that deeply saddens me. Christ’s bride, the hope of the world, is doing the opposite of what was ever intended.
Before you get angry and stop reading because I’m bashing the church please hear me out. I’m not trying to bash the church. I deeply love the church. I’m simply trying to point out a problem I believe, at least in part, we can all fix.
It’s sad to hear stories of people that have been hurt by the church. Yet those are stories I am now accustom to hearing. People have been hurt by the church in horrible ways, and they have been rejected when they needed to be loved. They were kicked out the door when they needed someone to listen to them. Some of these churches have done things so shameful to the name of Christ it’s hard to even watch. They have proclaimed the end of the world, so people will empty their bank accounts for them. Some use the church for power and money, not caring about the congregation but only their own status. People are using people in the name of the church, what is happening?
These might be the extreme cases of what’s happening in the church, but I think there are elements of this in every church. That saddens be, angers me, and makes me wonder why?
Maybe it’s the faults of the few “really” screwed up churches, but there are still elements in every church. Maybe it could even be the fault of the world; they’ve influenced us and added their corruption to our church. But that answer forgets how we are supposed to be different from this world.
So what is wrong with the church?
I think G.K. Chesterton got the answer right. A newspaper years back ran an article asking the readers to write in with what was wrong in the world. This is what he wrote:
He gets what we have such a hard time grasping. The problem isn’t what someone else is doing; the problem is us. I am the problem. We are all screwed up, as perfect as we like to think we are, we just are not. The church is screwed up because I am in it and because you are in it. The church looks the way it does because it is filled with broken people, sinful people, me. When trying to figure out the problems in the church we need only to look at ourselves.
Once we grasp the fact that we are the problem, that we are the ones that need help, I think we then understand the message of Jesus. Jesus did not come to fix the screwed up “other” people, he came to fix me. He came to fix you. When we understand that we are the problem we can seek a solution— the cross. This is where the church becomes beautiful, full of problem people being made new in Jesus. We might all be the problems, but none of us have problems too big for Jesus to fix.
The problem of the church is also the beauty of the church. When we all recognize our faults and realize Jesus is our only hope, the gathering of the church becomes beautiful. We no longer beat each other down with our words, but rather pull each other up. The church that sees their brokenness in themselves and the hope they have in Christ becomes a powerful force. Look at how Paul phrases it in his letter to the Romans:
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:3-8
So what’s wrong with the church today? I am. You are. Sure, we can keep pointing the finger at others who have done so much worse then we have, but that’s just side stepping the real problem. Instead, let’s step up and accept responsibility for what we have done; we have screwed up the church. We might not be able to fix the problems of everyone else, but we can fix the problem of ourself. G.K. Chesterton understood this, not pointing the finger at anyone but humbly accepting responsibility for his actions. We are all part of the problem, but that’s who Jesus came for; those who know they are the problem and need a solution.
I am the problem of the church, but I know where to find the solution.