​Why I Still Love the Church

For all her warts, the church is still the bride of Christ. And I wonder at times if those who call themselves followers of Jesus really understand the implication of that reality. The church is God’s idea. So ours is not to decide to stay or go, but rather how to work within the community to bring about the most attractive bride we can. A bride full of virtue and service. A bride full of love and optimism. A bride any man would love to be married to. How do we facilitate her beauty rather than exposing her imperfections?

The bride of Christ has taken a bit of a beating recently — and it’s not entirely undeserved. She is, after all, full of hypocrites. And there is a legitimate separation between orthodoxy and orthopraxy (what we say we believe and what we do). And there are people in the church who are mean and rude. And there are so many opinions about what the church should or should not stand for or against, and what role truth plays in our lives, and where the amazing doctrine of grace comes in. Philosophies for how a church should run are all over the map.

These are just a few of the conversations going on in the church world right now.

And yet, she is still the bride of Christ.

Anytime I leverage other people to decide what to do with the church, it is a trail of disaster. My call and commitment is never to the people, it is to the Lord. And while that may sound like it gives me permission to disregard the hurting or broken, it is quite the opposite. My commitment to the Lord drives me into those broken places. And there is no excuse good enough to explain why I don’t have time or energy or money. I am called into messy relationships with people more because of my commitment to the Lord, not less.

That being said, I want to share a few pieces of real beauty I see in the church. There is ugliness, hurt, and struggle. But there is also real purpose, hope, and freedom, too.

There is a story about a man traveling in the old west. He came near a town, and on the outskirts a man was sitting by the road.

The traveler asked, “What kind of people live in this town?”

The old man, full of wisdom, replied, “What kinds of people were in the town you are from?”

“Terrible, mean people. People who lied and cheated,” the traveler said.

The old man, full of wisdom, said, “Well, you will find many of the same kind of people in this town.”

The traveler rode away determined not to let that town be a part of his life.

A second traveler came along the path and saw the old man sitting beside the road. “What kind of people are in this town ahead?” the traveler asked.

The old man, full of wisdom, said, “What kinds of people are in the town you came from?”

The traveler replied, “I left wonderful friends and family there. People I will miss and hold near my heart for the rest of my life.”

The old man, full of wisdom, said, “Well, you will find many of the same kind of people in this town.”

I see this truth in the church. There are many things to celebrate in the church. It is not all failure. I see people putting their God on display in profound and life-changing ways.

My friend “Bill,” for example. He attended seminary and is one of the more intelligent people I know. And yet, as we talk, there is no academic arrogance in him. His heart for people and the pastoral care of the flock is so evident. He inspires me. And he often calls me back to the simple truths of faith and the goodness of Jesus. I love him.

I have another couple who are dear friends of mine. They have lost two children in the last year. And I watch them continue to pour out love for their other kids and other people — even on their worst days.

I watched as a family bought tires for a van for a couple they did not know. They did not know nor care about who owned the van. It was simply a need and they met it — in the name of Jesus.

I have seen people give selflessly of themselves so others can be encouraged. I have seen the grace shown to me by others whom I offended in my foolishness. I have experienced the encouragement of people who simply wanted me to know I matter to them.

Yes, she has warts, but there is this strange beauty about the church, this attractiveness I am drawn to. I can’t get away from it. Some try. They will say, “leave the church and start meeting with a group of people for fellowship and ministering to one another.”

My question is, “What do you call that?”

I call it church. And while I totally buy the reality that it does not need to be within an existing organization, I see that even people who are jaded by pain they or others have received from the church are still drawn to this amazing thing we call the bride of Christ.

She is a real beauty.

May you recognize the beauty in the church you attend. May you look at the bride of Christ with eyes to see what is good, and not only brokenness.