“Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:3-4
A lot of people have the idea that the experience of church should be close, if not identical to Rev. 21:3-4. They believe the church is a gathering of ideal people who sing Jesus songs, treat each other perfectly, and stay happy all the time. Well it’s not. We have a long way to go before Rev. 21. Many people go to church for six weeks and think, “This is great.” Yet it will not be long until they realize that the church is good, but it is not yet great. As a matter of fact the church, in its current state, is less than ideal. The misguided reaction to the difficult mess that is called the church is to quit. Some take their disillusionment to the extreme by not only giving up on church, but also on the idea that Jesus or God are any part of this reality. If the church is such a mess, God must be a myth. It is a tempting conclusion, but not a truthful one.
The Bible is more honest about the less than ideal nature of the current state of the church than we are. Between the Gospels and Revelation 21 is the truth, a collection of books that spell out the miraculous history as well as the turbulent episodes of the church. There is no degree of dysfunction or chaos that one can experience in the church that has not already been written about in the New Testament. From sorcery to sexual scandal, from embezzlement to fussing, from heresy to jealousy God led those whom He used to pen the sacred text to make one thing clear, until we get to Rev. 21, there will be turbulence. 1 Corinthians alone would make reality TV blush.
In chronicling my experience as shepherd I knew I too would have to be honest enough from time to time to share the turbulence. Not everything I can recount as shepherd has been funny. At times I was the victim of turbulence, at some points I was its catalyst. I will try to share what I can with due censorship. Why censorship? Because there is grace and forgiveness that have been extended from and to those involved. I am not trying to blame or to recreate turbulence. Strangely enough I plan to share how I have experienced Christ through it. What I do hope to convey is a Biblical truth, as crazy as the church can be and often is, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Jesus said so. In 15 years I have found Him faithful. His Word is so.
If there is another caveat to my desire here it is to encourage those who are discouraged with church to take the Bible seriously and stay faithful. The church in its current state is wheat, but it is also tares. If you take seriously God's promise to be with us, or His promises that He would answer prayer, you should also take seriously everything Jesus said in Matthew 13. All of it is Scripture and should be believed.
If you have ever been on a plane you know that turbulence can feel like the beginning stages of death. It is frightening, but not deadly. I hate it, but to get where you are going, most of the time you must go through it. So it is with the church. We are headed to Rev. 21. Until we are there, expect, from time to time, that there will be turbulence.
To be continued . . .