I am a pastor. My dad is a pastor. My brother-in-law is a pastor. My great-great-grandfather on my dad’s mother’s side was a pastor. I have gone to church my whole life—literally. I have attended a lot of churches, and been the pastor of a few more. Some of those churches I didn’t like. Some of them were good; some not so good. But what makes a church “good” or “not so good”? What does that even mean? I have been hurt by the church, and I have no doubt hurt some people in the church. Does that mean a church is not so good if people get hurt in it?
I talk to a lot of people who have been hurt by the church, and it grieves me. Many of these people claim they still love Jesus, but just want nothing to do with “organized church.” I know more than a few people who have rejected Jesus and His gift of salvation, arguably because they have been so hurt by the church and the hypocrisy therein. So we see a huge upswing in the “house church” movement where there are no elders, or pastors, or constitution, or business meetings, or buildings to maintain. The goal is noble—let’s return to the church doing what the church is supposed to be doing and forget all the politics. But is that the best answer? Is not every genuine local church an expression of the glorious Bride of Christ?
So what is going on here? The church is, after all, the glorious bride of Christ, the bride for whom He died, shed His blood, offered salvation by grace, and loves unconditionally. The whole institution of marriage is to picture the incredible relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church (Eph 5:32: This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.) Why is it so dysfunctional?
After many years of full-time pastoring, I have shifted gears. I now serve as Director of Church Relations for Eternity Bible College. A huge part of Eternity’s ethos is centered in the local church. Every student needs to be part of a local church, have a ministry in that local church, and be mentored by someone from that local church. A big part of my job is making that stick.
So my wife and I attend a different church every weekend, or at least, most weekends. That allows us to learn about these churches and therefore allows us to better pair up a student and a church. It struck me what a unique opportunity had been handed to us: I get to travel around and witness firsthand this mysterious thing called church, body of Christ, ekklesia, in many different places and expressions. It is an opportunity I don’t want to waste. I want to share it with you.
I have slowly realized that this is part of God’s prescription for me to heal, to recover from my cynicism about the church. For I too have been hurt by the church and been pretty cynical about ‘organized church.’ This journey is helping me recover, and maybe it will help you too.
I’ll be posting my thoughts somewhat regularly on this blog under the heading of “The Church Is a Mystery” so that you can journey with me through many different houses of worship and see how God shows up at church. Most of them will be in Southern California, but there may be an occasional odd location thrown in here and there. My guess is that God will show up in some pretty mysterious ways in some pretty unexpected places! After all, this is His Body we are talking about!