It is a question that, for a wide variety of reasons, is being asked in increasing measure in our culture today- and in many cases, in our churches themselves. Chances are, no matter who you are, you’ve wondered yourself before; I know I have.
I think for most of us, the idea of the church makes sense. It is, however, our experience of church that can at times leave us and others questioning its legitimacy and its necessity. I mean, considering its massive and often ugly imperfections, is the church really worth our trouble?
I still believe the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” While not denying that the church has all too often been far less than God designed and desires for her to be, I still believe with all my heart that she is worth fighting for, and worth persevering in.
Why do I say that? Truthfully, for many reasons. But for the sake of focus and brevity, I’ll hone in on just one- I believe the very nature of the church demands that we not give up on her. You see, when Jesus launched the church some 2,000 years ago, He launched something far more significant than another religious movement. He initiated something far more meaningful than another institution or organization.
When Jesus started the church, He started a family.
While by no means the only metaphor used, the prevalence of “family language” utilized in the New Testament to define and describe the nature of the church reveals it as an incredibly dominant theme. God is pictured as an intentional, adoptive Father “to all who believe” in His Son, Jesus, rendering us “brothers and sisters” in Him, full participants in the “household of God” and heirs of the coming Kingdom of our Father. I challenge you today to spend time reading Romans 4, Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 4, Galatians 4, Galatians 6, Ephesians 2, 1 Timothy 5, and other such New Testament passages to see how this plays more fully in the story of the Bible.
Viewing and approaching the church through the lens of family is significant for several reasons- reasons which work together to give us little choice but to fight to believe in, and engage in, the life of the church even amidst its difficulties. Primary among these reasons is the undeniable reality that God has created us with a deep, inherent need for the kind of intimate relationships that family provides.
There is simply no one out there in our world today making a compelling argument that individuals are able to thrive disconnected from the love and nurture of a family. No one with a sliver of sanity believes that a child left to fend for himself or herself is better off than a child living under the protection, provision, and guidance of a loving parent, grandparent, or the like. No one truly believes that orphans, widows, and the like should simply “buck up” and figure life out on their own. To do would be cruel, heartless, and flat out foolish.
And yet, in walking away from the church- or in approaching it with anything less than a family perspective- that’s exactly what we are claiming about the spiritual wellbeing of ourselves and others. We are saying that those orphaned in their sin don’t need a spiritual family pursuing them in the love of their Father and offering them hope beyond their brokenness. We are saying that those who have been “adopted” by God would be better left without the spiritual protection, provision, and guidance of more mature and experienced “spiritual parents.” We are, essentially, abdicating our spiritual responsibility to anyone except ourselves, leaving the world with a message of, “Figure it out.”
I recognize that that may seem like a harsh assessment, but I believe it’s accurate. God doesn’t waste His words, and He doesn’t misspeak. Knowing that, I believe He made a very intentional choice to frame up His church in family terms. In doing so, I believe He was communicating to us just how critical it is to our spiritual wellbeing, and just how much beauty and power is encompassed within it whenever it operates according to His good design. I believe He was telling us that despite our immature ideas to the contrary, that we just can’t live- at least not well- without His family.
So yes, I still believe in the church. I still believe that Jesus died for her, that Jesus delights in her, and that Jesus designed each and every of us for full engagement within her. No, that kind of engagement isn’t easy; sometimes, it can seem flat out impossible. That said, I am more convinced than ever that it is a fight worth fighting, a road worth traveling despite the bumps and bruises we’ll find along the way. I believe the nature of the church demands it.
Whatever your past or present experience with the church, will you ask God to give you what you need to believe- and engage- again? Will you make the choice to “fight for the family”? I pray God will enable you to answer that question the way I have.