These days, when people talk about the Church, they often sound like it’s broken. Even, probably especially, people in the Church are pessimistic about its current state. But when I walk into a church building, or someone’s house for a small group meeting, or run into a believing friend at Kroger, most often the feeling I am struck with is not one of brokenness. It’s one of redemption.
Redemption has an aspect of brokenness to it– you must first be broken in order to be redeemed. So, in some ways, I am encouraged that we have reached a place where we realize we are broken rather than pretending we are perfect. But brokenness is not where we’ve landed. We’re “pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” There is tremendous brokenness in the individuals of the Church and the Church itself– but that brokenness is demolished by incredible victory.
I see this all over my life and all over the communities of believers I have been (and am) a part of. Brokenness is innately part of our communities because it’s innately part of who we are as individuals. But when broken people in broken communities sincerely seek Jesus, there is growth, change, victory, redemption. Our Savior is in the business of transformation. We know this. What we forget is that He not only transforms individuals, but He also transforms communities. Youth groups and senior adult Sunday School classes. Urban house churches and suburban churches with campuses spread out across acres.
I have plenty of reasons not to believe in the Church, to give up on it with pessimism, indifference, and bitterness. But I see this incredible transformation at work in the communities of the New Testament and in communities today. There is (and was) pain, brokenness, sin, selfishness, discrimination, corruption, hypocrisy, and more at play in these communities. But there is also great hope, passion, sacrifice, sincerity, faith, and love. And so, against all trends and naysayers, I will believe in the Church (the true body of Christ– not just anything masquerading under a title). I will invest in the Church. I will stand with the Church. I will love the Church. I will sacrifice for the Church. I will be part of the Church. And here are a few of the more specific reasons why:
I believe in the Church because every Sunday I worship with hundreds of people of different backgrounds and ethnicities– in Atlanta, where “Christians” once bought and sold other people because of their race.
I believe in the Church because when I return to the church I grew up in, I see reconciliation and growth among a group of people once divided by infighting, once left stagnant and hurting after a split.
I believe in the Church because I have brothers and sisters who will pray with me for hours after just a word.
I believe in the Church because I’ve worshipped at a concert led by a band from halfway around the world who have the same concept of God and His community as I do.
I believe in the Church because I’ve seen college students give up their summers to teach, entertain, encourage, and serve kids on 4 hours of sleep every night and no breaks in the day.
I believe in the Church because I’ve seen 4th and 5th grade kids crying for their unbelieving friends and heartbroken over their own sin and doubt, kids who give their own Bibles away to friends who don’t have one.
I believe in the Church because I once hated going to church, but the Holy Spirit supernaturally worked in my heart to transform that bitterness, hurt, and hatred into a love I can’t fully explain.
I believe in the Church because I know the stories of brothers and sisters around the globe who lay down their rights, their safety, and their lives daily for the cause of Christ.
I believe in the Church because I’ve seen “poor” college students raise millions of dollars to free people from modern slavery and send Bibles to unreached places.
I believe in the Church because I’m broken, and I’ve been loved, served, fed, taught, listened to, prayed for, laughed with, guided, helped, encouraged, advocated for, sacrificed for, reconciled with, and forgiven by people in the Church.
I believe in the Church because I need the Church and the world needs the Church.
I believe in the Church because the Bible doesn’t really make sense unless you read it in the context and framework of community.
I believe in the Church because I know God believes in the Church. Jesus died for us to become part of His Church.