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The Perfect Church

November 17, 2014

My church had its annual congregational meeting last night and, after a series of routine items, the bulk of our time was spent discussing our 2015 vision.

I’ve always been a little skeptical of vision statements by churches (not just mine by any means) as they’ve seemed to be little more than wish lists; sort of like “wouldn’t it be nice if we could….” statements.  Last night however the elders presented the statement that in 2015 our vision is to “become the disciples we’ve always wanted to be.”  My hat is off to my fellow elder, David, for that cool summary of more than three hours of rambling discussion at our elder meetings.

Now you might expect that, in a contemporary evangelical church, such a statement would be the lead-in to some grand new discipleship program we were planning to launch.  Wisely or unwisely, and we will eventually find out which, we chose a different path.  We announced our intention and outlined some ideas and hopes.  Each of the elders was given time to make a statement where we mostly, but not entirely, agreed with each other.  But we did not give a specific plan, just our intentions and some rough ideas to be developed over time.

We then opened the meeting to input and it came in abundance with each thought or idea triggering a lot of responses or elaborations.  Frankly, the meeting could have easily gone on until midnight but, after two hours we had the sense that (a) people liked the idea, and (b) there was no consensus as to how it should work. There was even polite disagreement as to how it ought to work.  It seems we have some figuring out to do.

I sometimes feel that, in our church as in every other, we yearn for a perfect church that we actually know doesn’t and can’t exist.  We yearn for a church where we are all best friends; where week after week sermons from our godly and wise pastor touch our hearts in a special way and heal our wounds; where the men get together for manly fellowship to encourage each other to be good husbands and fathers; where the women give each other support and care through the trials of life; where elders magically know just when to reach out to a silently hurting member and just what to say to help them; where are children are blessed by their teachers and youth leaders; where the worship music touches every heart every week.

Instead we have churches where some are too sure of their own opinions; some take thing personally that should be just let go; some too busy or stressed to be everyone’s best friend.  We have churches where we have different personalities, different preferences, different sore points, different gifts, and different problems.  We have churches where everyone is doing their best but, at the end of the day, some members go home feeling alone and unheard.  We have churches where you can’t point to any one reason why this is so; where there is no easily identified fix, let alone any clear sin to repent of.

We have to come to grips with the reality that we can never all be the best of friends, seeking a relationship with God and each other in the same beautiful unified way and gathering together to celebrate that quest.  No matter how much we seek that perfect church we all have to admit we will never find it.

As evangelicals we know that this yearning is not a mistake, not something that we are foolish to want.  The yearning is for something that has a name – heaven.  We sigh and realize that we must accept that here on earth that reality will never come.  So we plan and pledge to do better.  We try our best knowing that, again in 2015, we will fall short.

In the meantime we still choose to come together every week even when it feels as if we haven’t begun to reach what we all want; even though we will never be the disciples we’ve always wanted to be.  We hunger to be forgiven for that failing and desire to be, in grace, as forgiving to others.  As we continue to reach for that goal I feel that somehow we will be the church God actually wants.  And this will give us the strength to wait for that perfect church in the next world.

 

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