This video cracks me up… and it also makes me a little sad. It is sad because this critic is all too familiar – not just to me, but probably to most church leaders. In our consumer culture, where some people have little more allegiance to their covenant community than they do to Wal Mart, K-Mart, or Target, it is all too easy to complain and then cut-and-run.
Jesus calls the Church his “Bride”. Joshua Harris calls such nit-pickers “Church Daters”.
What are the Marks of Church Dater? In his excellent little book, Stop Dating the Church, Harris identifies three:
Harris goes on to write:
Church-daters don’t realize that what they assume is working for personal gain is actually resulting in serious loss – for themselves and for others.
The plain fact is, when we resist passion and commitment in our relationship with the church, everyone gets cheated out of God’s Best:
- You cheat yourself.
- You cheat a church community.
- You cheat your world.
And Harris suggests something about a lack of commitment to the local church:
Wouldn’t that be like telling your new bride that while your love is true, you have other priorities? Your heart of course is all hers, but as for the rest of you … well, you’ll be in and out.
But Harris also offers this encouragement:
When a person stops “dating” the church they’re not just adding another item to their “to do” list. …Instead they’re finally getting started on experiencing all the other blessings Jesus promised.
Harris is right, on all accounts.
I have no doubt that criticisms often leveled against the Church – the churches I have served, and all others – are probably aimed toward at least a kornal of truth. Churches have problems. Churches are filled with people, all of whom have problems. There is an old saying:
This church would be a wonderful place… IF it wasn’t filled with all these people!
So finding things to bash is not difficult. No question the local church has warts and scars that make her at times less than attractive. But she is the Bride of Christ. So it might be helpful for us all to remember how precious the Bride is to Our Lord. He is aware of the present realities – the ugliness. But he has also promised to make her beautiful. As John Stott reminded us about the Bride of Christ:
On earth she is often in rags and tatters, stained and ugly, despised and persecuted. But one day she will be seen for what she is, nothing less than the bride of Christ, ‘free from spots, wrinkles, or any other disfigurement’, holy and without blemish, beautiful and glorious. It is this constructive end that Christ has been working and is continuing to work. The bride does not make herself presentable; it is the bridgegroom who labours to beautify her in order to present her to himself.