We have a lot of ideas of how to change the Church.
Many of us have sat around in coffee shops or pubs saying things like: “What’s wrong with the Church is…” Followed by a litany of things that irk you about the structure, people or attitudes in your local church.
Every church is going to be flawed, and there will probably be plenty of things that drive you nuts about the Church.
But instead of ranting about those, here are a few things you shouldn’t do in seeking to become more like the Body of Christ we are intended to be—and what you should do instead.
1. Complain. A lot.
Talking about issues in the Church is not the same as actually doing something about them. It can be tempting to bring up your gripes with the Church at every chance you get, saying things like “If the Church would just…” or “what’s wrong with the Church today is…” In an era when opinions are easily shared, we can all write scathing, rant-y blogs and make sure to send the link to our pastors. But is that really helping anyone?
Wasn’t there a verse somewhere about “do nothing about grumbling or complaining?” Oh yeah, it was written in Phillipians 2:14 by Paul—who happened to be in jail and had a lot to complain about. Complaining will do nothing except make us bitter and get our communities riled up. Yet prayer and gratitude on the other hand do quite a bit. Jesus changes our hearts towards the systems and people we happen to be grumbling about.
2. Keep looking until you find the perfect church.
There are bound to be a few things you don’t like at any church. The easy thing would be to keep bouncing around hoping to find some amalgamation of a church where there is a pastor who preaches like Tim Keller, a worship leader who leads like CeCe Winans and people who all have a heart of justice like Shane Claiborne. That’s a nice church of the imagination right there.
What we can do is accept that church is not about our exact preferences and pray that God would give our pastors insight into Scripture, that our worship leaders lead us into passionate worship from their connection to the Holy Spirit and that all of our feet would get a little more dirty as we care for the poor together.
3. Avoid sharing your faith.
Evangelism is a scary thought, and we make all sorts of excuses to avoid it. I don’t want my friends to think I’m one of those types of Christians, we think. Non-Christian people don’t really want to hear about Jesus anyway. It will totally creep them out. People will catch the drift about Jesus forgiving everyone from their sins just by what a nice person you are.
Share authentically about your faith in Jesus. You’re not perfect, so why should you act like you are when you share about what Jesus is doing in your life? If you have a hard time thinking about what He is actually doing, take a moment to write down five things you’re grateful for, or a way that God has answered prayers. (See how I was sneaky there? Getting you to pray with gratitude?)
4. Only read the Bible in church.
It can be tempting to believe that we caught most of what Scripture had to say in Sunday school or from people holding up signs at football games. We can let our Bibles become a doorstop or a coaster for a latte. Or let that free bible app we downloaded become far less useful to our lives than Yelp reviews.
If we believe the word of God is living and active, we can trust that when we spend time in Scripture individually, the Holy Spirit will speak to us—not just to drop wisdom nuggets but to help us become more Christ-like as we learn to follow Him. Start somewhere—take 10 minutes on your lunchbreak, on the bus or after you put your kids to bed to spend some time in Scripture.
5. Isolate yourself.
At different phases in life it can be easy to isolate ourselves and end up feeling really lonely—putting in long hours at the lab during grad school, sitting at home with a new baby, or moving to a new city to take a job. Even when we have the opportunity, we start worrying that no one will come if we invite them or that our home or apartment isn’t big enough to host others for meals or parties. In an instant gratification society we often forget it takes time to build relationships.
Share meals around the table. Any table—even if it’s a fold up TV tray with a plate of Fig Newtons in your dorm room. Authentic community around a meal is core to Christian hospitality. Jesus loved a good party. Eating together doesn’t need to be fancy: Order in and ask some frineds to joing you for a movie night and share about things they’re struggling with and things they’re grateful for. God designed us to be in community, and eating is something all of us need to do.
When we complain and utter phrases like “the Church isn’t…” we often forget we are included in that. We are the Church. You are the Church. The Christians you are complaining to about the Church are the Church. We are all part of this crazy Body of that is stumbling toward the love of Jesus each and every day—getting bumped and bruised because of our sin.
And the onus is on us to keep taking steps toward Jesus and His people on a daily basis—through prayer, scripture, community and evangelism. We need one another to be the Church, and we need lots of different people around us to remember that it can look many different ways.