Is that where you worship every Sunday? Don’t be too quick to answer. Have you thought of your congregation as similar to a marriage?
Spouses know that not everything in a marriage is glamorous. If we choose to concentrate on warts, we can find them in the other person. Self-checks in the mirror can also be revealing! If working at marriage is like making an extended trip, the road bumps will be there. Some may test the shocks, even shock the shocks! But making things work calls for all eyes on the whole road, not on every dip or crack in the pavement or stone at the edge. Real barriers, of course, need removal, yet, many obstacles are overcome on the marriage highway simply by where spouses prefer to focus or not focus.
What does this have to do with your church? Are you looking for warts and bumps or do you see your place of worship as an avenue that directs wart-filled sinners (you and me) to Him who alone is the Way to heaven?
When one reads the first summary of the early church (Acts 2:42-47), the report is glowing: devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, treasuring fellowship, sharing freely with each other in need, regular use of Communion (Breaking of Bread), and much use of prayer. This is a truly bright report for the church embarking on its mission-oriented future, right? Oh, how we wish the Pentecost mindset could have carried through in every decade and every century!
Warts and bumps were sure to come. We have heard it said—where the Lord’s group builds a cathedral, the devil is sure to set up a chapel nearby. Read Acts, read Galatians, read the letters to Corinth. They dealt with challenges because of envy, pride, and a lack of true Gospel focus. All these evils wormed their way into the chancel décor of what followed that first Jerusalem church basking in the joy of multiple baptisms. The apostles’ teaching: dashed by Galatian false teachers directing people away from Christ’s grace alone for salvation (Galatians 1). Fellowship and sharing: dashed by the account of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Breaking of Bread: note the Communion disturbance Paul had to deal with in 1 Corinthians 11. Prayer: James, the brother of the Lord, had to exhort: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3).
Let’s get back to your congregation. Perfect? Amid the challenges and bumps, your church with its pastor(s) and teachers is a wonderful blessing that holds out perfection—our perfect Savior, the Lord Jesus, is presented there! He washes and proclaims sinners to be “without stain or blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). In Him we trust!
Thank God, and also thank your faithful pastor for your “perfect” church.
-President John A. Moldstad