The REAL Church

I love the church! That’s not a boast, it’s a fact.  BUT the catch is, I love the “real” church, not the “imaginary” one. 

The imaginary church is the one in my dreams where everybody gets along.  It’s the one where everybody loves me, and I love them!  It’s the church where everybody looks like they walked out of the same closet, read all the same books, love the same songs, and have all same favorite teachers.  The imaginary church is the one where I feel connected because I see myself reflected in the people with whom I worship. The imaginary church is the one that makes me feel “safe”. 

Now let me tell you about the real church where you actually belong.

The real church is messy, complicated and very often deeply frustrating.

The real church doesn’t offer all your favorite programs (unless of course you actually want to lead them).  

The real church doesn’t always make you feel “safe”.  Is it possible that God actually wants to take you out of your comfort zone?  (imagine that!)

It’s demanding.  You are more than just a seat warmer, you are there to make an actual difference. 

It’s different.  People aren’t supposed to look alike, talk alike, think alike. 

It’s challenging because it’s filled with saints who act more like sinners.

It’s full of complicated, interconnected, and weighty relationships.

It requires hard work to move the mission forward.  Serving in the real church can sometimes feel enormously futile in accomplishing the mission of Jesus (i.e. “make disciples of all nations”) because, more often than not, it’s three steps forward, two steps backward.  

But it is the church about which Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  The real church has the power to overthrow the gates of hell. Do you know the story behind that famous quote?  Jesus took His disciples from their home base in the Galilee to Caesarea Philippi where there was a pagan shrine to every imaginable god in the ancient world.  Some actually called that spot, “the gates of hell”.  In effect Jesus wasn’t waiting for the devil to come after Him, He went after the strongholds of evil to “set the captives free”. That’s the real church.  Going where way too many saints are afraid to go. 

One of my mentors use to say to me,  “Bartlett, where would you rather be?  In a “safe” church populated by smiling saints who don’t’ really want to change.  Or in the one where people need real help with their messy lives?”  He was right.  I’m happier to be in a church made up of real people who are seeking after God in spite of their personal failures, who are trying to build community in a disconnected, busy world and that has the courage to follow Jesus to the very “gates of hell.” 

And oh, by the way, I’m OVER THE MOON to be part of a church community that has stayed connected and committed during a time of great crisis in the world. 

Shalom for another week church family.
Pastor Deric