Why I Love the Beautiful, Messed-Up Local Church
Inside: Have you been disillusioned, hurt, or put off by the local church? It certainly is messed up. Consider these reasons to give it another chance.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
We start singing the first song, voices raised, hearts settling, some of us still finding our seats. To my left, a young mom kindly eyes the little foster child she took in two nights before, all of the mom’s protective instincts evident. We know about the family’s addition because we saw the mom’s urgent request for a twin bed for the emergency placement.
Behind me stands an older couple, dressed formally, worshiping with their granddaughter and family. Listen closely to this couple’s stories, and you’ll glean deep wisdom. The grandfather lost his final job because he prayed at work in order to encourage a young man.
In front and to the right of me, finding strength in collective worship, stands the family who lost their toddler granddaughter a year earlier in a tragic day care pickup. Catastrophe like that will change a person. How do you get out of bed the next day? How does such suffering change how you talk with God? New mission drives this family (see Harper’s Hugs).
Across the aisle, young professionals fill the seats, longing to worship freely, yearning for justice to prevail in the world.
The music shifts, a slower melody filling the room, and in walks a young family, led by the dad, coaxed along by the mom. They find open seats in front of me, and the mom instantly shifts from the pressure of parenting to the sacred of worship, bowing her head, stealing precious quiet time for just her and her Lord. The dad checks on the boys; the mom remains bowed, oblivious to her sons, letting God’s presence wash over her.
Story after story after story. People who work differently, play differently, vote differently. People straining, struggling, sometimes succeeding. All in one room, praising the God from whom all blessings flow, finding sustenance and guidance in a messed-up world.
This is the beautiful, imperfect local church, one small fragment of the bride of Christ, replicated in countless homes and cities around the world, inhaling the mercy and grace of God, exhaling an imperfect reflection to the community around it.
The local church. Marred by sin. Wracked by conflict. Filled with messed-up people.
Yet if you get to know these people and listen to their individual stories, you’ll find God’s grace fully active, His mercy ever needed and apparent.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5 ESV)
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 ESV)
Despite its flaws, what do you love about the local church?
Looking for a Devotion?
I was on vacation this past week and didn’t write a full-blown devotion. Thank you for your grace and understanding! If you’re looking for a devotion, take some time to pray and journal over these questions and worship with these songs.
1. What do you find messed up about your local church or one you have attended?
2. What do you find beautiful about your local church or one you have attended? Consider how God is working through the local body, even though it is imperfect. You might list these characteristics or the ways you have benefited from the local church in your gratitude journal.
3. Have you been hurt by the local church? Jesus cares deeply about you. Bring your complaints to Him and ask Him to heal your heart. Listen for His guidance and ask for His grace to protect your heart and redeem the situation.
God I Look to You (Francesca Battistelli, Bethel Music)
Great Are You Lord (All Sons and Daughters)Print