Growing up I never remember missing a Sunday or Wednesday church service "just because." And the reason I don't remember it is because it never happened. Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday, we were there. We were there early for Sunday School and we stayed late for fellowship. We gave in the offering, we sang specials (my first was at three years old), and we attended each night of revival services. My grandpa was our pastor, but even if he hadn't been, we'd have done the same thing.
We were your prime example of "church folks."
Then at 14 years old, my dad started his own church, and I was given a front row seat to the inner workings of "church life." When we started our church, my parents were the pastors and the youth leaders, my mom was the worship leader, and I taught children's church. We were as "churched" as they come.
In the last 13 years I have watched my parents shepherd their congregation and have been intimately involved in many details of that journey. It has not always been easy. Though it's much better now, there were years of hurt, heartbreak and disappointment. As church leaders you often give of yourself until there's not much left, only to have what you gave away thrown back in your face.
But my parents (and countless others just like them) never let any of that stop them. I have watched my parents drive an hour to visit someone in the hospital and then do it again the next day. I've watched them pick up people for church, buy families carts of groceries, and buy travelers a room at the local hotel. I've watched them wake up early on Saturday to minister at the abortion clinic, and spend hours at a time crafting a letter or Facebook message to encourage a weary soul.
I've watched more good deeds done in the name of Jesus than I could ever begin to recount.
That's why I have a real problem when people start talking about "what's wrong with The Church."
I have wanted to write on this topic for a long time because it is something that really bothers me. For some reason, it seems to be hip and cool to dis on "The Church" and talk about what all it's doing wrong. Have you noticed that? I've heard sermons, read Facebook posts, and read blog posts by well-known leaders, which subtly and not so subtly outline how The Church is missing it. The Church is full of hypocrites. There's too much hate and not enough love. We focus on the wrong sins or doctrines or evangelistic methods. So many people are quick to point out these things, but few make mention of what The Church is doing right.
And my goodness, it's a lot. Of course we can look at nationwide and global ministries and see the people that are impacted, but we don't even have to do that. I just look around my town, and there's plenty to see.
I see kids and teens who are picked up in a van each Sunday morning. A caring adult gets up an hour early to make sure they have a ride and a church family to take them in. Teens here also have a safe place to spend Saturday nights because a couple devoted youth leaders sacrifice their time to open up the church gym. Anyone and everyone is invited to play basketball and dodge ball and eat snacks and have the love of Jesus shared with them. Because a couple of church youth guys just think it's the thing to do.
If I look 15 miles to the southeast, I see a food bank that runs on nothing but the love of Jesus and the blood and sweat of its volunteers to help a struggling community. There are plenty of other ways those church folks could spend their Saturdays but they choose to collect, organize and distribute food if it will ease the burden in somebody's life.
And five miles west of there is the church my parents pastor, with one of the most faithful children's ministers I've ever known. Mrs. Kim is her name and if you're a kid in the community, you know it. She's no doubt called you, sent you a card, or picked you up for some event she was hosting. Many children from troubled homes know the tangible love of Jesus because she has shown it to them.
So my point is this. The Church does a lot of good. Is it perfect and without fault? No. People mess up and ministries fail and pastors sin and news channels cover it. But I cannot imagine the state of this nation or of this world if there were no "Church." (I think it would be similar to the scene in "Noah" where everyone's eating each other.) God's Church is what keeps society running, working and with the knowledge of hope. If you've ever been deeply hurt or betrayed by a "church person," I am so very sorry. Please know that your experience was the exception and not the rule. My life has been engulfed in The Church and its people for 27 years, and I've seen virtually nothing but good. And I take it as a personal offense when you bash "The Church" or its people or "pastors now days."
So if you think it makes you more spiritual to do so or to share links on Facebook of others who do, go ahead. But don't expect any likes from me.