About Churches

Christmas Eve service at my home church in Richmond, VA

I spend a lot of time thinking about churches. As a pastor, I guess this isn’t all that surprising. But still, I really like thinking about church strategy, church trends, church health, church planting, church theology, and church discipleship. I like visiting church buildings, too. Almost everywhere I go in the world, I try to spend time in local places of worship. I have had the privilege of worshiping in house churches, praying quietly in grand cathedrals, absorbing the pulsating bass of modern worship in a concert venue, and joining hands with brothers and sisters in church plants meeting in school cafeterias.

I love the church. Sure, I have strong theological and doctrinal convictions. Sure, I have stylistic preferences in worship. But within the bounds of what I’d consider the major, non-negotiable tenets of biblical, historic Christian faith, there is a lot of diversity to be had and enjoyed.

At times, though, the church gets me riled up in anger or cast down in sadness. The church – a faith family chosen by God to be a force of his grace and redemption in this world – sometimes falls far short of her purpose. She has sometimes lost her way under the leadership of men who use religion as a means of attaining power and control, hurting and abusing others in Jesus’ name. Her assets of money, buildings, and monuments could often have been better invested in serving the poor and marginalized. She has shown herself gullible to business ideas and success schemes in an effort to attract and entertain. She has sometimes preached a “gospel” of moralistic and even political ideals instead of the true, liberating gospel of Jesus and the kingdom. In our modern age and in the generations before us, she has shown herself faulty. Clearly, there will always be a need for the prophetic call to deep repentance and a humble orthodoxy.

But I still love the church. This is my adopted family. This family is quirky but irreplaceable, sinful, but being sanctified. Jesus died for the church, the “bride” for whom he is preparing a great wedding feast.

Sometimes when I’m in church – whether sitting on the rug in a house church or on a centuries-old pew in a cathedral – my heart fills with wonder and awe. I get to be part of this. This is a global movement and little old me is among those who by the insane privilege of Jesus’ blood am a full, participating member. And when I sing, I’m joining my voice with a chorus of sinners-now-saints who will one day be all in the same place, singing and worshiping before the throne of God. I can’t wait.

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