Thursday, November 20, 2014

Condemning the Body of Christ

In recent years I have noticed an increase in blogs and spoken-word videos pointing condemning fingers at the church by members of the church. Blogs entitled something like, “Ten Things the Church is Doing Wrong” or “Five Things Pastors Do to Ruin Churches” or “15 Things Churches Do to Chase Away Visitors” are posted and shared all over social media scolding Christ’s church for this thing or that thing. One begins to wonder if the church is doing anything correctly. While I believe such blogs and videos were originally meant for good, they have multiplied and built up like a type of cholesterol in the arteries of the church clogging the healthy blood-flow through their overshadowing negativity. Please don’t misunderstand me; I am all for self-evaluation and sometimes that means putting a spotlight on negative areas so they can be honestly addressed. (That’s something preachers of the “feel good gospel” need to learn.) However, I am no longer convinced the multitude of these articles is producing edification in the body of Christ. What they are producing may be more disturbing then the list of items they are spotlighting. Here is what I am beginning to see:

They are producing condemnation.
I have noticed that many of these articles and spoken-words are painting with a progressively broader brush. One man faces a camera or one individual faces a computer screen and proceeds to lambaste the entire church of Christ. There is little care taken to follow the words of Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The Bible constantly reminds us that we should be edifying one another in the church. How can we point out with condemning words that we need to love the lost when our attitudes do not even reflect love for our fellow Christians? I have noticed a coldness in many of these blogs and spoken-words by the author against his own brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to remember that the church is also called, in Scripture, the bride of Christ. An individual would be wise to carefully consider how he speaks to the bride in the sight of the groom. That is especially true when the Groom redeemed the bride with His own blood. 

They are producing pride.
This is the worst byproduct of what I will call the “condemn the church trend”. Pointing out the flaws of “all the other Christians” places the finger-pointer in a position that is separate and above his or her brethren. It says, “I see you people and expose your failures, but I myself am above all of that.” It is an undeniable human trait that we like having a 1-up on others. We enjoy having any slight sense of superiority. Rarely have I seen any of these recent articles or heard recent spoken-words that do not create this sense of separation of the speaker from the rest of the church. I would love to hear someone who has to bring a word of sobriety to the church include themselves into the mix and season their word with grace and edification. Whenever a word of correction must be given, though it sometimes must be given sternly, the messenger must posses humility and remember that he/she is a fellow member of the body of Christ and not portray themselves (even unintentionally) as superior to it.

They are producing fuel for enemies of the church.
Whether you want to admit it or not, the church has enemies. Jesus Christ told His disciples this would be the case, (See Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:9, Luke 6:22, John 7:7, John 15:19, John 17:14.) I stated earlier that I believe in self-examination and that such internal inspection sometimes reveals ugly things that must be dealt with. However, internal inspection should be just that; internal! Every time one of these blogs or spoken words gets blasted all over the internet it adds more ammunition to those who already hate the church. (In fact, I wonder if some of this isn’t purposeful by a few of these authors in an attempt to endear themselves to a world that opposes God. Like a big public announcement declaring, “Hey, I just want you to know that I am not like all of those other Christians, so please like me.”) The church is not perfect and will not be so in this world. We are, however, being perfected. We should strive to be better and more like Christ. Correction is part of that. We should keep in mind though, that continually announcing every flaw in the church and blowing it up like it is the practice of the majority is publicly advertising that the church is not somewhere anyone wants to be. When a blog gets posted and reposted talking about “8 Judgmental Things the Church Does”, it doesn’t draw sinners to the cross nor does it take into account that most born-again believers are not acting that way. What it does do is confirm to the world their feeling that Christians hate everyone and judge them and therefore there is no reason to give them a chance or listen to their message. I believe correction and introspection should take place in-house. Pastors should be bold and address sin in their own congregations. Church leaders can receive edification, challenge, and correction through accountable relationships with other ministers and at conferences and retreats designed for such things. That way we, the church, are able to meet the world with our best foot forward and the compassion of Christ flowing out from us!

I suppose one could ask if I am not doing the same thing in this blog that I am criticizing in its content. Unfortunately, it is the nature of this particular beast. It is an issue which has been thrown out to the public eye; therefore it must be addressed publicly. My intent is merely to get us, as the church of Christ, to take some consideration of how we may edify one another for God’s glory instead of tearing down the church while the world looks on in amusement. To that end, the next blog I publish here will be a list of things I believe the church is doing correctly. Hopefully it will gain the same attention so many of these finger-pointing messages have. It is my hope to see the church encouraged and moving ahead with passion for its Savior and the Great Commission and a love for one another! Jesus said in John 13:35 – “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” He was speaking to and about believers here. That means the world will witness Christ in us by the way we treat our fellow disciples!

I want to encourage you to read the following portion of Scripture, even if you are familiar with it. Let it sink in and encourage your heart and love for Christ’s blood-bought church. Ephesians 4:11-16 – “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”