For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1Co 15:9
I’ve often that my attitude towards God is reflected in my attitude towards church. I realize this is not a hard and fast rule (what some might call a cause and effect relationship) but there is definitely at the very least a level of correlation between the two. Theologically and Biblically speaking, Paul talks about the church being the “Body of Christ”, and us as “members” of the Body. So it makes sense that our attitudes towards Christ would be reflected in our attitudes towards the church (the visible manifestation of Christ in the world) and our view of church would also teach us about how we see Jesus Christ. To ignore the connection between the visible church and invisible Christ would be to lobotomize much of the New Testament teaching on the subject. It is my hope in this blog to help us right-size our attitudes towards both Jesus Christ, and the church for which He died.
For example, I had a very presumptive and dare I say, consumer attitude towards the Church at one point in my life. I worked for the Church, received an income from the Church and to my discredit, I at times I complained about what I described as “crappy” insurance that didn’t cover much and cost a lot; I also complained about other facets of my job. One way that God deals with such attitudes is to take everything away and build appreciation and gratitude into one’s life (you’ll have to see the movie “Ultimate Gift” on this issue). God put me in a place where I worked about 80 hours a week, lost 25 pounds, body mind and spirit falling apart and I came to understand the value of what I have now.
But there’s more: When I became a Christian in my early 20's, I was basically discipled by several different Pastors in the first ten years of my ministry (from age 25-35, essentially). I learned from these men – whether I agreed or disagreed – and am thankful to all of them for that role. However, at some point as my career in the church grew, I really lost sight of why the church was important. I became jaded and frustrated at what I saw in terms of some sinfulness in people, and eventually Robin and I stopped attending church altogether (in about 2007) when we didn't work for the church. Then God took me through a really tough time (the sudden loss of my father, and owning a restaurant and having no money) and guess what … I was ALL alone without any Christian men who knew me and could support me! It was not THEIR fault. They were around, but I had basically pushed everyone out of my life. It was then I remember in tears telling Robin I REALLY needed some Christian men in my life. I had fallen away from having a good relationship with Christ, and everything in my life was falling apart. I came to understand not only the need for Christian men, for fellowship, for support but also why we need the Church – for worship, for discipleship, for care, for accountability and most of all to lead us to Jesus! And at just that time of realization, God called me to The River and the first thing I began doing was building fellowships of men meeting together regularly – both for myself and for them!
So here’s the point. Analyze your relationship to the Church, and it will teach you a lot about how you view Christ. Do you use the church or do you love her? Do you complain because it isn’t what you want it to be, or do you work with all your might (like Paul could say) to make it beautiful, as the Bride of Christ? Do you give financially to Christ through the Church because you want it to succeed as His hands, feet and voice in the world? When you look at where you are putting your money that will tell you what you truly value (Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also).
How we give (if we give) of our time, talents, energies - and the attitude with which we give - will teach us a lot about how we view Jesus as well as His Bride. So I encourage you to analyze your relationship to Jesus, and that will teach you a lot about how you view the church; analyze your view of the church, and that will teach you a lot about how you view Jesus.
I say this NOT to manipulate or judge anyone else. I judge myself (says I, and says Paul) and it is God who judges me. I am convinced and convicted that I’m a sinner and I need to continually reflect, confess and repent for my bad attitudes towards Jesus, and towards His Bride. I say this for your thoughts and prayers, but only as one who can honestly say is a “chief of sinners”.