Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Imperfect Church: Six things to say to "church hoppers"

A while back, I reviewed John L. Allen Jr.'s interview with Archbishop Cardinal Dolan. I walked away from that book completely enamored with the man, but that's not why I bring this up. At several points in the interview, he talked about the imperfections of the Church. Any organization, even one ran by God, is going to have imperfections because it consists of people. People aren't perfect. As Dolan says in the interview, "We shouldn't be afraid to show off the wounds of the Church to the world, and we should boast that the wounds remind us of the healer."

People run from church to church trying to find the perfect one. They say, "This one is full of hypocrites" and "this one has better preaching." They are looking for some imaginary church that is full of living saints, with awesome services and amazing programs. They are looking for a church in which they'll agree 100% with everything the hierarchy says. 

And when they do not find this church, they are the people and families that stay home on Sundays. They figure it's good to just be alone with God, because other people just mess things up anyhow. I have 6 things to say to them:

1. In any group of human beings, perfection does not exist. Everyone fails from time to time. 

2. Jesus came for sinners, not for the well.

3. He also came to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. So, you don't 100% agree with the hierarchy of your church? Maybe this is God's way of asking you to reconsider your position. Maybe this is God's challenge for you to prophetically change your hierarchy's mind. In either case, maybe you should look at the issue closer. There must be something more to learn there. Never stop learning.

4. Religion isn't supposed to be easy and it definitely isn't entertainment. No, you don't have to earn your way to heaven. Catholics and Protestants both agree on that. But church is supposed to change you. You aren't supposed to get a warm fuzzy feeling every time you go to church. Sure, sometimes you'll get a warm feeling, but other times you'll be hurt, or get angry, or sometimes you won't feel much of anything at all except the comfort of knowing you are not alone.

5. This is in direct response to the Muslim convert to Catholicism who left the Church because the Church "got soft on Islam": church isn't about hate. We don't get together to hate. Jesus doesn't hate. This also goes for the Catholics who think the Church is not being hard enough on homosexuals.

6. But neither should you expect unconditional acceptance of your behavior. "Love the sinner, hate the sin," said St. Augustine. There is a huge difference between the doer and the action. The doer is always a person in the likeness of God who God loved so much that He died for them. The action is not always so holy.

So, find a church that isn't completely bad and one that you feel at home in and stick with it. Through good times and bad. When you love it and when it challenges some of your fundamental beliefs. You'll grow through it and you'll be better for it.
Cynical, but enlightening post from a Protestant Pastor who has plenty to say about this topic to fellow pastors:


What do you think? I want to know.