Romans 14:22 (NIV)
At a recent seminar, I had the privilege of seeing a video called, "Celebrate What's Right With The World" It is an amazing vision-setting training video by Dewitt Jones, a former photographer with the National Geographic Society. I was totally enthralled with this video. If it were not for the rather steep price tag, I would most certainly be buying my own personal copy.
As I watched this video, I thought about its title and I began to ask myself another similar question, “What is Right with the Church,” and, “is there something therein that is still worth celebrating?” I confess that I have often written on what was wrong with the church, but now suddenly I feel led to look at the other side of this coin.
We often like to draw people’s attention to the flaws in things we see around us. If we take time to look, we all can easily find problems at work, problems in the church, problems with the neighbor’s mannerisms, or problems in society as a whole. However, what would happen if we all spent just a little more time focusing on the positive around us instead of only on all that we perceive as being negative?
A friend of mine often speaks about, “eating the meat and spitting out the bones.” Are there bones in the church that need to be spit out? Most certainly there are. However, unless we believe in another maxim, namely, the throwing of the proverbial baby out with the bath water, there is also a great deal of wonderful meat in the church for us to chew on. Having said that, shouldn’t we celebrate that?
The problem is that there are several interpretations out there of what it means to be “the church.” When we speak about “Celebrate What’s Right with the Church,” what do we mean by “church?” Are we talking about the traditional institutional church? Are we referring to one particular denomination over against another one? Are we thinking of one of the more recent modern terms such as “Organic” church, or “Simple” church? Or are we simply talking about the universal Body of Christ, those born of His Spirit, regardless of where or how they meet?
It’s bad enough when the world slanders the church, but when the church slanders the church, that’s downright sickening! Have we forgotten that the Christ who died for that group of believers over there also died for this group of believers over here? God forgive us! I am reminded of an event in the Gospels that sounds like it came out of some of the negativism about the church in many Christian circles today. It was credited to John, but the way some of us have sometimes carried on in our “anti-institutional” or our “anti-something-else” rants, it could just as well have been you or me who said it. The passage is Luke 9: 49-50 which in the NIV reads,
“Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Have we also been guilty of trying to stop other believers simply because they have a different view of things than you and I have? To be sure, none of us would dare admit that, but to listen to us trash talking other church groups or institutions, one has to wonder some times. No, personally I don’t believe in a lot of stuff associated with institutional Christianity, but that does not give me license to drag it through the mud all the time. God forgive me for the times I’ve done that.
Jesus also said something else that I’ve often wondered about. He was just accused of driving out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, when he replied,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every household divided against itself will not stand … He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:25,30; NIV).
I suspect that the reason we don’t “stand” united in the church today is because we have become a “household divided against itself.” We’ve become really good at airing each other’s dirty laundry. The problem then becomes that we no longer “gather” with Christ but by our bickering we “scatter” would-be converts. The non-believing world looks at this church “divided against itself” and shakes their heads. Why would they want what we’re selling if all they see is dissentions and factions (acts of the sinful nature; Galatians 5:20) in us?
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18; KJV). I would like to suggest a new vision for the church. Instead of all the negativism, lets focus on “Celebrating What’s Right with the Church.” If others have put their faith in Jesus, lets celebrate that. If God is doing something wonderful in that institutional church, let’s celebrate that together with them. If God is ministering to that non-institutional church that meets in Mrs. Smith’s home, let’s celebrate that with them. Though some of us may not be denominationalists, lets celebrate with those who are as they rejoice over the people who just found Jesus in their midst. Let’s focus on the positives and not the negatives.
- What are some of the positives that you’ve seen in other groups of believers that gather for worship in very different ways than you do?
- What are some of things that are right with the institutional church? What are some of the things that are right with the non-institutional church?
- Forget the negativism, can we “Celebrate What’s Right with the Church?”