Lately there’s been a lot of talk about the church.
And that’s good.
But it doesn’t take a genius to realize that not all of it has been positive.
And that’s not bad within itself. And I definitely don’t agree with everything going on in it. I have fun making jokes and exaggerating as much as the next person, but lately I’ve been slightly concerned and maybe even a bit perturbed. There has been growing negativity in my church at large about the church itself.
And don’t get me wrong. There are definitely problems in this church I love.
But here’s the problem: it’s still our church. Last time I checked, it was made up of all of us. (Forgive me if I’m being a bit too blunt or seem reactive here. Bear with me.) That’s kind of the point. The church is made up of you and I and people just like us. Sure they may have different approaches and may not always agree with you and I politically, socially, or even hermeneutically, but they are still our church.
We are still the church.
So before we talk negatively about the church and the people in it who cause problems, let’s remember that we too are the church.
3 … to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith. 4 For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another. 6 And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us… [Rom. 12]
And ultimately we need each and every member to get the job done. Ultimately, most of us just want to see Jesus’ face. And like it or not, we need each other for that. The church isn’t perfect, no, but it is my church. And it is your church. I’m not saying that we have to leave things as they are, rather, if this church needs to develop in certain areas, then let’s set out by the Spirit of God to do so.
But the negativity needs to stop. We can rant and rave–and freedom of speech and identifying the problems and being vocal about them is important–but ultimately, verbally tearing apart the church doesn’t actually change anything. To be clear, I’m not saying that we don’t need to identify the problems within the church and evaluate them and write on ways to address the issues productively. What I am saying is: if we are going to address these issues, let’s actually address them productively. The church isn’t the ultimate authority, but it is God’s establishment.
“I testify to my brethren and sisters that the church of Christ, enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard” (CET 206.1).
Now some of you may be saying, isn’t she talking about the church body of people, a figurative collective body? It’s possible, but within the context of being written to the General Conference officials, I’d say it’s more than likely that she was talking about the church as an organized body as well as the figurative collective body. Either way, criticizing the body isn’t exactly productive.
We are not to hurl the thunderbolts against the church of Christ militant, for Satan is doing all he possibly can in this line, and you who claim to be the remnant of the people of God had better not be found helping him, denouncing, accusing, and condemning. Seek to restore, not to tear down, discourage, and destroy.—Manuscript 21, 1893
What I’m trying to say is this: We can criticize and tear apart various factions, facets, and groupings of the church, but that isn’t going to change anything. We have been doing that for the past 50 years and change has still come slowly and at great cost. So dream with me a minute here. What if we could close the door on negativity within the church (there is a difference, let it be noted, in negativity and constructive criticism) and open the door to productive growth? What if we could have a church that is a safe space for expressing ideas for change without slamming members of the church that we are a part of–or slamming the church itself. What if we decided to build up the church rather than faultfinding at every turn? What if we, what if we could change the world without tearing down our church? What if we can have revival and reformation without bloodshed?