Our host this week is a retired prison administrator, who now teaches a Bible study in prison. His favorite question to his students is, “How many of you were regularly going to church, when you were arrested?” The answer is always the same, without fail, none of them were attending church, when they got into trouble with the law.
Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”—Matt 16:18.
Before I founded a church in the late 80’s, I was more of a critic of the church than I am today. Since then, I see myself as a church builder. Not that I am pioneering churches but I want to build the church in the sense of being an encourager instead of a critic. There is an abundance of church critics; criticism tends to develop into censorious spirit, often resulting in becoming a downright opponent of the church.
Jesus came not just to save individuals but to call out a body of believers, the church, which constitutes his Kingdom.
Alas, there are relatively few church builders. Most of the critics don’t seem to have a church home or else they frequently hop from church to church. Some are convinced that the answer is a home church. Home churches soon have the same problems the body of believers which they left had, who were meeting in the building.
The most frequent criticisms of the churches and pastors is that they excuse or overlook sin. Unfortunately, this is often the case. On the other hand, the preachers who teach holiness from the pulpit, still may have sin abounding in their pews. When I was a pastor, I addressed the subject of holiness virtually weekly. Yet, there was still sin in my small congregation, some of which I did not know about until after I closed the church doors.
For 15 years our church muddled through under my leadership; yet, our church was a blessing to my family and me, and I hope to my congregants and to the community in which we ministered.
Shortcomings of the church are easy to see. But despite the faults, I think the churches on the corner remain a great blessing to communities and still have the potential to revive America. The churches remain the strongest barrier against lawlessness.
Often times critics are not really in a position to judge the churches. There is a lot more to a church than the message preached from the pulpit. Churches have discipleship programs and small groups where the sin problem is addressed with perhaps more zeal than in the pulpit. Or perhaps the iniquity is being dealt with in counseling sessions.
Paul in his epistles and John in the Revelation criticized the churches; however, these were churches which they founded. So many of the critics have never pastored nor have they ever pioneered a church, which may be one of the most difficult ministries there is.
Most of the churches in which I have spoken over the years are the store front variety or at least that is where they got their start. Usually, a beginning church or a small church has the same problems as a large church or even a mega-church.
My general rule not to be a critic of the churches but a booster is just that, a general rule. Sometimes criticism is appropriate. Let’s strive to make in constructive and balanced.