I’m a product of the Church.
I grew up in the church. I was shaped by the church. I came to know Christ in the church. I was mentored in the church. I’ve only gone to Christian schools my entire life. Elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college. All Christian schools. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for growing up in the Church. I’ve attended a few different kinds of churches and schools. I grew up in a dispensational non-denominational church. I went to a school that tows a standard evangelical line. I went to a reformed church. I went to a Baptist college. And now I’m at a church who’s slogan is “we draw circles not lines” and doesn’t really care too much about denominations or trying to pin down hard theological lines. I’ve been close to the inner workings of churches and far on the outskirts of other churches. I’ve never been on staff at a church but I worked for a non-profit that worked with tons of different churches throughout DFW. I’ve seen the inner workings of churches and have had the curtains pulled back just enough to see how the sausage gets made.
And I have mixed feelings.
On the one hand, I’m insanely hopeful. I believe in the local church today more than I ever have in my whole life. I’ve seen the good it’s done and the lives it’s changed and how it’s gotten me through some of the darkest times in my life. I’ve seen it serve the city, pull the community together, transform families and marriages and lives who feel lost in the dark shadow of the world. I’ve seen it raise up leaders and give money away in unimaginable generosity. Jesus said the gates of hell won’t prevail against the Church, and I believe him. The local church is absolutely, 100%, unequivocally God’s body and agent of change in this world. And I’m completely on board. I want to give my life to the church.
I’ve also seen enough to where it’s impossible for me not to be honest. I’ve seen the church divide over small issues. I’ve seen the church care more about the specifics of how the world was made than about the depression that someone is experiencing day in and day out. I’ve seen the church tow the lines of political parties at the expense of people with sincere needs and concerns. I’ve seen the inside world of church politics where “vision” is put before people and staff members are more concerned about what people think of them than doing the right thing. I’ve seen the church spend thousands of dollars on programs and initiatives in the name of reaching people but really only expand the church’s brand. I’ve seen the leaders we hold in the spotlight fall in the face of pride and moral failings. I’ve seen the church hurt people. And that’s hard.
There’s not much to this post except for a confession and report of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. The church is a mixed bag. I’m a mixed bag. And it leaves me in a place where I have to be both honest and hopeful. We have to hold these two things in tension or we’ll lose any sort of grip on reality and the mission of the church.
I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum.
I’ve been the guy who’s only honest. I’ve been the critic who doesn’t count. Who does nothing but critique and point out the problems and the faults with the church. Constantly recognizing the issues without ever creating solutions. Without ever saying, “but let me help.” Without ever getting dirty and putting my own skin in the game to try to make it better. I’ve been the one who wouldn’t just shut up and get in the game. I’ve been all talk no walk. I hate that. For those of you who have been on the receiving end of it, some of you pastors, others of you friends, I’m sorry.
I’ve also been the guy who’s only been hopeful and never honest. Who’s blindly gotten on board with a vision without wondering what the implications could be. Who’s gone on mission trips without wondering if what we’re doing is actually helping rather than just feeding our own messiah complexes. Who’s wanted so badly to believe in something that matters and belong to people who care that I overlook the faults in order to not rock the boat. Who’s enabled systems and behaviors that aren’t healthy because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And to those people and churches who I’ve let slip out of fear of man, I’m sorry I didn’t love you enough to graciously voice my concerns and help you dream of a better way to move forward.
I’m a mixed bag and I’ve been both.
And honestly, I’ll probably continue to swing from side to side just grasping at the hope of finding a balance one day.
There’s no three points to this post or a solution. But a confession and a hope. I want to begin discussions around how to be both honest and hopeful in today’s world, especially in the church. There’s a tension to be held and I want to work towards that.
Lord, let me never be so blind to the harsh realities of our fallen nature or afraid of people’s opinions of me that I never love your Church enough to speak prophetically into the cracks and splinters that I see taking the Church off mission.
And Lord, let me never be so critical that no one can see your love through me. Let me never be the critic who doesn’t count, the voice who only produces noise and never music. Let me believe in your Church so much, that the hope that fills me radiates like a ray of sun in a dark cave and casts out the cynicism of the most burnt out of hearts.
Let me always be both honest and hopeful.