Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Church: weak or glorious?

Recently, I was involved in a meeting as an officer in a church planting association with a fledgling congregation experiencing some problems. After the meeting, as I drove home, I thought about the precarious position the baby congregation was in. They had a short history as a congregation, a small nucleus of members struggling to pay bills and keep their heads above water financially, and a seeming weakness in being able to deal with troubles among themselves. We officers had done what we could to help the tiny flock weather their current storm, but the congregation seemed so weak and helpless to all outward appearances.

Having seen so many congregational troubles through the years of my ministry, it is tempting to wonder how any congregation can survive the tempests it is forced to endure during it's time in this seemingly hostile world system each congregation must operate within. Thinking back to Jesus' letters to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2-3) we notice the kinds of troubles Jesus pointed out to these second-generation congregations. Among them were such maladies as, losing their first love (2:4), suffering opposition, poverty, and persecution (2:9-10), false teaching and sexual immoralities (2:14-15), compromise (2:20-25), spiritual deadness (3:1-3), persecution by Satanic forces and weakness (3:8-11), luke-warmness, and indifference (3:15-19). That's quite a list: If so many things can go wrong with a church congregation, is there any hope for the local church?

The good news is that even with her imperfections here on earth, the church was God's idea from the beginning. She has been the object of special provision by our loving Savior who died for the church and imparted himself to her so that she will eventually be seen without spot or wrinkle as the glorious bride of the Lamb (Eph 5:25-27) Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to infuse the church with life and truth and leadership (Eph. 4:3-6). This means that the church is unlike any other organization on earth. The church has someone special in her midst giving her a dynamic unlike that of other fraternal and philanthropic organizations. So while the church may appear weak and precarious among other worldly entities, she is under God's special watch care and guidance, and will receive His special provision to the praise of His Glory when she is revealed in full spender as the radiant bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9) Therefore, though the church may look weak in worldly terms, I know that God in his wisdom, has provided for her everything she needs, and that the church is under God's protection and guidance. What looks weak and fragile to me is actually infused with Spirit imparted life, Jesus imparted Love, and Abba imparted provision. She is much better off than I could ever imagine.

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