Today, the day of writing, is my wife, Penny’s birthday. “Thank you” to all of you who have sent her your best wishes. We had a delightful morning including a special breakfast and the opening of presents. I’m just taking a moment to tell you what I expect you already know, which is that I consider myself the luckiest guy alive. How on earth did I manage to land her?
Please do keep her in your prayers. She is on the frontline of response to the COVID-19 virus crisis. Amongst medical workers GPs, of which she is one, have the highest death rate. At the same time she has been battling severe back pain brought on by changed working practices. She is amazing, compassionate and creative. I have no idea what I would do without her!
Most of the time church is the best place to be. God designed it that way. Jesus died to make it that way. The Holy Spirit was sent to keep it that way.
But occasionally, from time to time, it isn’t. What then do we do? If we wish to hold onto our faith we cannot reject church. It’s the bride of Christ. He loves it – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Who are we to not love that which Jesus loves? Yet, it can be so painful. A leader turns out to be a hypocrite. A fellow church member gossips and slanders us. A disputable matter is made into a cast-iron membership requirement.
It’s been said that is not helpful to look for the perfect church. If it existed, it wouldn’t have you or me as a member! Much truth in that statement.
None of this is new, of course. Have a look at the New Testament and you will see many instances similar to these:
“I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.” (1 Corinthians 11:18 NIV11)
“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15 NIV11)
What do we do when the church is experienced more as a hindrance to faith than a help? Penny and I are putting together a resource page on this very topic. Our three decades plus of being in church has taught us many things. Some of them pleasant and exciting, some very unpleasant and discouraging. Nonetheless, we are still here – somehow – by the grace of God and have learned a few things along the way. Sometimes we have walked alone with only the Spirit for company. At other times we have had loving mentors. On occasions God has used websites, conferences and books as the means to maintain and strengthen our faith.
Penny and I passionately believe in the church. Not the institution. Not structures. But the power of a kingdom-minded community to display the love of Christ to this world. Despite our own hurts and those of friends we love we are determined to be the best we can be, and help others be the best they can be in God’s spiritual family.
To this end, we are looking for resources that have helped other people to hold onto their faith and remain engaged with church. All of this will be going on a page of my website referenced below. Please drop me a line with any suggestions you have.
God bless, Malcolm