"I love Jesus, but I hate the church." ... not possible. When you give up on the church, you give up on that which Jesus died.
Investing in a local church body wasn't always something I felt to be important. There were even times I thought it might be optional. I never quit going, but sometimes I wondered, "What's the point?" After seeing all of the prayer and support my family and I have received the last four and a half years from not just our church, but the church overall, I was reminded of just how important and vital it is to be part of a local body of believers. And as I read the Bible, I am learning how important the church was, and still is, to Jesus.
Despite the love Jesus professes to the church in scripture, studies show people leaving it today in record numbers. Many of these would say they have not given up on Jesus; they have given up on His church. While I would agree that Jesus is certainly saddened by the behavior and attitudes of a lot of today's church members, I think he is saddened just as much, maybe even more, by the members that are leaving it.
Some say they love Jesus but want nothing to do with His church. Jesus calls the church His "bride." If someone tells me they like me but want nothing to do with my wife, I would have a hard time having a relationship with that person. When we want no part of the church but still want Jesus, this, in essence, is what we are telling Him.
In my opinion, we are living in a culture where people have become experts at pointing out problems, but aren't wiling to do anything to help solve them. Instead, we expect someone else to fix it. I see some of this same mentality in the church. But if all we do is point out and complain about what's wrong with it, all we will do is become part of the problem.
Despite all the issues it has, God still loves His church. And if we truly love the church, then we should be willing to take action. If we see a need, then we should try to meet it. If we see a problem, then we should try to help come up with a solution.
I am not naive. The church has it's own set of problems and is far from perfect But this is something that should be expected. The church is made up of imperfect people. I once heard someone say, "If you find a perfect church, don't go there. You'll ruin it!" It is also like Abigail Van Buren once said, "A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints."
The church is a vital part of God's plan to reach the lost and restore this broken world. But the crazy thing is, He could have done all this without our help. He had all power and authority to do it on His own. But God chose to include us. He gave us the privilege of joining Him. So let's not give up on the church. Let's be a part of His "rescue" plan.
*** Seven Disappointing Reasons People Leave the Church by Ron Edmondson (courtesy of www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/ron-edmondson/7-disappointing-reasons-people-leave-the-church.html.)
- Burn Out - People get so busy doing church they fail to enjoy being the church.
- Injury - People can't get past getting hurt by the church.
- Distractions - People get distracted by seemingly good weekend activities. These slowly start taking the place of going to church, and over time, the habit of attending becomes the habit of not attending.
- Life change - People move, go through a divorce, or remarry.
- Mistakes - People mess up. Sometimes the mistake is public, or they feel it will be known, and the church refuses to dispense grace or doesn't do so in the way they expected. Sometimes this is more perception than reality, but it keeps people from committing to a church.
- Power struggle - People come in with an agenda. When they don't get what they wanted, they leave.
- Lack of connection - People leave because they don't connect on a deeper level with others, so they don't feel like they are part of the church.
*** People "leave," or "change," churches for many legitimate reasons such as false doctrine or because the church is failing to preach the gospel. In these cases, people should be leaving and finding a new church home. I hope you can appreciate that this post is not addressing these people.