Learning to Love the Church

Learning to Love the Church

I love the Church. But also, I hate the Church. But also, what is the Church?

When someone hears the word “church” what comes to mind? Boring. Archaic. Judgmental. Hypocritical. Corporate. Structures. Politics. Hopefully some have more positive words. Community. Discipleship. Hope. Peace. Love. Friends. Worship. Fellowship. We all have had different experiences in the Church and those have impacted us and can even impact how we begin to approach theology. Therefore, it’s important to have a correct understanding of what church is and what church isn’t.

First let’s agree on a general description of what the Church is: Church is the gathering of people worshiping, reading the word, edifying, discipling, and practicing the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper. It is both local, individual churches and the larger collective of all believers (Eph 2:19-21, 1 Cor 16:19).

 I love this quote on the Church: “But wherever the church meets she exists as a whole, she is the church in that place. The particular congregation represents the universal church, and through participation in Christ’s redemption, mystically comprehends the whole of which it is the local manifestation.” The Portable Seminary 2nd Edition by David Horton, General Editor.

When I read these descriptions of what the Church is, it sounds wonderful and like an amazing gathering anyone would want to be a part of. So why is there such a negative perception of the Church and why do so many people want to turn from organized worship to solo worship on a Sunday fishing? Why is “church hurt” a common term – do a quick google search to find endless articles on healing from church hurt. Why do we move from church to church? Why do we get frustrated with our church so quickly and readily move on ?

Does that make anyone else sad? The Church is intended to be the Bride of Christ, a reflection of a holy relationship where we worship God and edify each other.

Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:9-21

My prayer is that the Church would be loved again. For God will be known by our love for each other (John 17: 20-26). I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the trends that we convince ourselves will make church popular and trying to brainstorm the next big program that will get people in the door or apologizing for what the Bible says so we don’t add to someone’s church hurt.

I want to see the Spirit move, the body of Christ built up, and for people to genuinely love the Church – because I do! I love her in all her imperfections and all the sermons I slept through and even through fellow Christians offending me. Because she is powerful and spirit filled and how we will draw others to Christ. She’s where I have met my closest friends, received discipleship, seen miracles, got to exercise my spiritual gifts, seen lives changed, have comfort in my times of need, and met some of the most amazing people clearly showing the fruit of the spirit.

He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at the right hand in the heavens – far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age, but also to come. And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church. Which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.

Ephesians 1:20-23

I want to focus this series studying what the Word says about the church, in hopes of challenging us to not be swayed by popular trends but instead by the inspired Word of God on what His community should look like. I hope that Christians can celebrate being in the Church and that the Body of Christ would call non-believers to see God. As Robert Kellerman says in his book Gospel Conversations, “Instead, our ministry to one another in the church builds each other up in truth and love so that we can embody truth and love in our community.” And “It is the through the church that God as chosen to make known the glorious riches of Christ’s gospel of grace”

See, if we’re not in community with each other as the Church, the Kingdom of God won’t multiply. This is one reason I’ve stopped using slogans like “it’s a relationship, not a religion.” Phrases like this were appealing when I’d just left the Catholic Church and wanted to leave any feeling of institutional religion behind too, but over time I saw the beauty and purpose of the “institutional” church, the purpose in organized religion as a collective of believers. God didn’t intend for us to be alone; we need others around us; we need the body of believers; we need the Church. The world needs the Church.

I hope throughout this series learning about what the church is and what it isn’t will help others fall back in love with the Church. We’ll go through first what the Church isn’t: it’s not consumeristic, compartmentalized, or cultural. Then we’ll look at what the Church is: community, Christ-centered, and commission oriented.

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