Monday, September 17, 2007

the lovely church


Sorry for not posting recently, but the California trip really threw me out of whack in getting back into things.

Everyone in AIM talks about how difficult it is coming back to the States from the mission field, and all of it's true by the way. I've dealt with a lot of personal issues coming back in Russia, but I've had the blessing of being encouraged by others going through the same struggles. I think I've been surprised of how many people have had violent reactions coming back to the States: angry or discontentment with the Church or American culture, even leaving the Church altogether.

That makes me sad.

Russia was so refreshing for me. Issues were non-existent, and people, for the most part, had no negative stigma attached to the Church. Every Christian there decided to follow Christ on their own, which in result produces a Church full of genuine and faith-filled Christians.

But many Christians in the States, I've noticed, are timid to even admit they are Christians because of the violent reaction many people have to our religion. A lot of non-Christians have been burned by people claiming Christ, and so they connect us to those bad experiences. And I share the frustrations with many Christians to so many people who have given Christ a bad name (myself included).

But I've noticed that many times the worst criticizers of the Church... are Christians. It's so discouraging to sit with a group of brothers and sisters and hear them slam the "Church", as though it were some organization.

But we are the Church. So when we complain about the "Church", we complain about ourselves. I do think that if we view the Church in America through a spiritual lens that there are many glaring sicknesses and problems within it. But those problems are within me, because I am the Church.

It's been weird coming back into what I call the coffeehouse culture. By that I mean especially my generation that loves to sit around and talk through and discuss things, mostly from a third-person point of view. But a lot of times it just turns into complaining, and I have to admit I've fallen into that many times.

I know the Church has lots of problems, because it's full of people. But there's enough people in the world that hate the Church... we don't need it coming from within. I have to admit I've been the world's worst at this unloving kind of judgmental slander.

But no matter how many problems seem to be overwhelming us I have to keep believing... the Church is good.

I believe that. Christ died for the Church, and we all came to Christ because of the glaring truth that we were dirty and worthless, and only in Christ could that change. But we all carry our baggage from our past life with us. Transformation into Christ's image doesn't happen quickly, it's a process. I pray I'm patient with the pride, hypocrisy, hatred, and selfishness that comes from the hearts of others as Christ is being patient with my own battles with those same things that take over my life so terribly often.

I love the Church, the body of Christ. We can't say we love Jesus then slam the people He died for. It's so easy to sit on the sidelines and be angry with what's going on on the field, but it's so much harder to pick up the ball and do the hard work.

I've been convicted lately that just because the Church in America is different, that doesn't mean it's not good. I pray God forgives me for my arrogance in ever questioning that. This is where I have to walk by faith that He knows what He's doing with His body. I have to constantly be reminded and comforted by the fact that He is God, and I'm not. I'm so glad that He has more patience with us than what we give each one another, and that His forgiveness is so full and deep that it can transform us from the inside out... giving us the strength to see the best and not the worst in each other.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever complaints you have against each other, forgiving each other as Christ forgave you. And above all put on love, which is the bond of perfection." Colossians 3:13-14


Brandon said...

It's good to see you coming to these conclusions, Josh. I'm proud of you.

I enjoy reading your thoughts on here.

Sergei said...

Josh, you can preach about it.
For me it means the same - if you don't like anything in church change it by yourself, not saing "that's bad" but change yourself first. Also loving church and believing in it means a wish to serve others and help them growing in Christ. And that's the only one thing I'm trying to do for a 2 years already. I agree! Miss you a lot.

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