I recently read a blog post by John Pavlovitz titled, “Dear Church, Here’s Why People Are REALLY Leaving You.” Instead of challenging all his negative stereotypes about Jesus’ church (His bride), I will offer seven undeniable truths about her:
1. Jesus’ church is FLAWED!
So are you. You’ll fit in fine.
2. Jesus’ church is FREE!
Compulsion in giving is forbidden (2 Corinthians 9:7), so if they charge admission, it’s not Jesus’ church. But while church is free, salvation is costly—but not to you and me! Jesus paid the cost in full for her freedom from sin and death. Listen to Paul: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). Jesus’ church is simply the gift-bearer.
3. Jesus church is FORGIVEN!
As repentant sinners, Jesus’ church is forgiven through His blood. She practices repentance before preaching it. She preaches conviction of sin because she has suffered it. She offers forgiveness because Jesus offered it to her—and she accepted. But forgiveness is not about turning a blind eye to sin, the deadliest cancer of all. Jesus didn’t. Hidden or harbored sin obstructs any possibility for a relationship with God. Sin blocks prayer, our lifeline to God. The ancient Psalmist sang, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18). Unconfessed sin stifles self-understanding, making honesty impossible. Like Dracula, sin hates sunlight. King David wrote about one who “…flatters himself too much to detect his own sin,” and added, “…he has ceased to be wise and to do good.” (Psalm 36:2-3). Above all, love loses out to ongoing sin. Jesus said, “Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12). Covered up, sin has the power to keep us from God, wisdom, joy, and love, while shackling us as its slave. So, Jesus’ church does not ignore or tolerate sin. She repents of it, accepts Jesus’ forgiveness and goes out to forgive others.
4. Jesus’ church is FAITHFUL!
Since her beginning seven weeks after Jesus was executed, His church has never left the face of the earth. Even flawed people can turn to God and be faithful to Him and each other. People are free to leave but Jesus bride survives and thrives.
5. Jesus’ church is FAMILY!
Who has a flawless family? How about a family life without frustration? No takers? Yet, the family is God’s Plan for our personal well-being. It’s where we first learn to love and how. The church is God family plan for our spiritual well-being. Paul saw Jesus’ church as God’s “household” (Ephesians 2:19 and 1 Timothy 3:15).
6. Jesus’ church is FOREVER!
Jesus promised that “the gates of Hades will not overpower [His church].” (Matthew 16:18). The relationships you build at church are meant for eternity.
7. Jesus’ church is FANTASTIC!
Paul described “the church in all her glory” as a bride presented to Jesus “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:27). The New International Version calls her “radiant.” I call that fantastic! Besides, an “r” word breaks up my alliteration.
Should Jesus’ church be immune from criticism? No. Does she need her faults pointed out to her? Yes, to her! But many church critics don’t do that. They broadcast their reproaches on line for all the world to see and sneer. There are ways to criticize constructively. Cite specific examples without trafficking in sweeping stereotypes. Focus the flack where it belongs. Do it privately. Find the log in your own eye first.
Some Christians leave some churches for healthy reasons. Some stay for healthy reasons. Some leave Jesus’ church for the same reason Dracula shuns sunlight. Stereotypes just don’t cut it. Jesus’ church is diverse. But she is also forgiven, free, and enduringly faithful. She is God’s family forever and that’s fantastic. I’m sticking with her.